The Stafford County School Board will request an operating budget that would fund a 3 percent pay increase for all division employees, including hourly employees and substitute teachers.

The School Board approved its budget request for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, at its regular meeting Tuesday night. It will now be considered by the county Board of Supervisors, which allocates funding for the school division.

The $332.7 million operating budget request, which does not include funding for debt service or capital projects, projects a $6 million gap between expenditures and anticipated revenues from federal, state and local government.

The approved budget includes almost $6.6 million to provide a 3 percent increase to all employees and $3 million to implement the first year of a salary scale compression that will eventually allow teachers to reach the top of the scale in 30 rather than 39 years.

The budget request would fund 130 new positions, including 19 general education teachers to meet anticipated growth, eight world language teachers, four fine arts teachers, six special education teachers, 15 special education paraprofessionals, 14 school counselors, 10 bus drivers, 10 bus attendants and nine elementary school assistant principals—one for each school projected to have more than 800 students.

The division will also ask for a new full-time position overseeing federal special education plans—known as 504 plans—which detail how schools will provide support and remove barriers for a students with disabilities, and a new assistant director of special education instruction.

The School Board learned during an accreditation report Tuesday that the division is rated as level two, “near standard or improving”—the middle of three levels—by the Virginia Department of Education’s Standards of Accreditation because of the achievement gap in English and math for students with disabilities.

Marcus Zinger, division supervisor of accountability, said during the presentation that “these problems are not specific to Stafford.”

The School Board’s approved budget requests a new part-time executive director of transportation. The position would focus on transportation rather than overseeing both transportation and fleet services.

Like many school divisions, Stafford has struggled with a bus driver shortage, as well as long bus rides for students and late arrivals.

The board will present its funding request to the Board of Supervisors on March 3.

Board Chairwoman Holly Hazard said the budget is “a reaction to growth.”

“Stafford County has the second-highest number of students per capita in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” she said. “We are a very family- and student-focused community. We need to recruit and retain the best to teach the students who seem to want to come here and are coming.”

Adele Uphaus–Conner: 540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

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