The Spotsylvania County School Board has approved a budget for next fiscal year that includes tiered raises for bus drivers, a 4 percent raise for teachers and raises for hourly para-educators and other hourly workers.

The $343.3 million budget was approved Monday night by a 4–3 vote, with Courtland District representative Rabih Abuismail, Livingston District representative Kirk Twigg and Lee Hill District representative Lisa Phelps voting against it.

It includes a $4.4 million gap between projected expenditures and projected revenues from state and local government.

The gap is about a half million dollars more than it was in Superintendent Scott Baker’s original proposed budget because of the addition of $218,000 to implement tiered raises of between 4 and 6.5 percent to bus drivers and a related $158,000 increase to the transportation budget.

The board’s approved budget also includes $210,825 to implement 50-cent raises for hourly paraeducators, maintenance grounds workers, custodians, substitute custodians and cafeteria monitors.

The School Board will present the budget request for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, to the county Board of Supervisors later this month. Supervisors have the final say on local funding for the schools.

To reduce the size of the gap, the board dropped the 3 percent raise for administrative staff proposed by Baker to 2 percent, while maintaining a 4 percent raise for teachers.

The board also decided against requesting an additional 10 school counselors.

The approved budget still includes 62 new positions, including 14 special-education teachers, 10 special-education paraeducators, six school counselors, five school social workers, five English learner teachers, eight general education teachers and two lead literacy coaches.

Abuismail said he would not support the budget because he considers it “top heavy.” He said he would like to see a budget that “[maximizes] the amount of funds that is actually reaching the classrooms,” by “putting teachers, bus drivers and paras as our top priority.”

Twigg also said he would not support a budget that includes a deficit, saying his constituents do not want to see the county raise their taxes to fund the schools.

“My constituents want a budget that keeps taxes under control while still meeting school-related priorities,” he said.

Phelps asked whether the estimated $12 million in new funding the division expects to receive next fiscal year from federal, state and local governments would cover a “bare-bones” budget that included raises for bus drivers and paraeducators.

School division staff said new funding will be used for mandatory expenses such as debt service payments, teacher pay raises required by the state and rate increases in contributions to the Virginia Retirement System.

Chancellor District representative Dawn Shelley said including a raise for administrators is important because Spotsylvania ranks 127 out of 132 divisions in the state for its ratio of principals and assistant principals to every 1,000 students, according to data compiled by the Virginia Department of Education.

“[Our administrators] may be higher on the pay scale, but they’re working harder,” Shelley said.

Shelley proposed a budget that included a 4 percent raise for administrators, but ended up supporting the 2 percent raise.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board approved, by a 5–2 vote, a motion proposed by Abuismail to authorize a feasibility study on purchasing cellphones for board members to use for School Board purposes.

The board asked for the study to be completed in June, but according to legal counsel Pakapon Phinyowattanachip, who spoke at the meeting, this would be considered a “fringe benefit,” according to Virginia Code, and cannot legally be voted on until 2021, the next year when seats on the board are up for election.

Phinyowattanachip said any such fringe benefit would also have to be extended to division employees as well.

He said those issues would need to be looked into as part of the feasibility study.

Shelley and Berkeley District representative Erin Grampp voted against Abuismail’s motion.

Adele Uphaus–Conner: 540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

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