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Albemarle schools prepare to cover state share of staff raises
20160914-ASUPES-ASKUL
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Credit: Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow
Assistant County Executive Lee Catlin addresses a joint meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and School Board in 2016.
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Aaron Richardson | Thursday, September 15, 2016 at 6:10 p.m.

County schools officials said Wednesday that Albemarle likely will have to cover nearly $400,000 for teacher raises it originally had budgeted to come from state coffers.

The division will uphold a 2 percent average pay increase for schools staff with money the county School Board set aside last year, said division COO Dean Tistadt.

State officials have not yet sent final word that the money will be withheld, Tistadt said, but the schools are prepared to pull the contingency funds.

“The School Board last year very prudently set aside about a $500,000 contingency to cover a revenue shortfall,” Tistadt said. “We are very well positioned to take care of the raises. It is not ideal, but we are prepared for it.”

Earlier this summer, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced a $1.5 billion hole in the two-year state budget after Virginia in June failed to meet end-of-fiscal-year revenue growth projections.

County schools officials said in July that raises would be safe no matter what happened with state revenue, but said then that they had no indication they would lose support for the pay bump.

The revelation came at a joint meeting of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and School Board aimed at beginning a two-year budget-planning process.

Despite the state revenue shortfall, said county Budget Director Lori Allshouse, there are positive signs in Albemarle.

Building permits in the county are up, and numbers from the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors showed that houses are selling faster than last year, Allshouse said.

“A [building] permit does not mean a building is occupied, but it is definitely a lead indicator of revenue you will have,” she said. “I don’t know exactly how the numbers will work out, but something positive is occurring.”

School division officials told the combined boards that uneven growth between the county’s urban ring and rural areas, an unevenly distributed uptick in the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch in the county and growing numbers of at-risk students and non-English speakers are growing challenges for the schools.

Additional services for these students have accounted for $10.3 million of the division’s total $30 million budget growth over the last 10 years, a presentation showed.

In the last five years, said Rosalyn Schmidt, the division’s assistant director of facilities planning, the number of non-English-speaking students has increased by 127 across the division. Most of those students are in urban-ring schools, she said.

Of the division’s elementary schools, nearly 30 percent of the total number of English learners are at Greer, Schmidt said. Fifty-eight percent of the county’s middle school population of English learners attends Jack Jouett Middle School.

“The important thing is that our enrollment growth is not even among our schools,” Schmidt said.

Supervisor Diantha McKeel said the numbers justify quick action to address overcrowding and enrollment growth.

“When you look at this you can see why some of us really have a sense of urgency,” she said. “With capacity issues, in certain areas there really is an urgency to the problem.”

In an effort to more effectively lay out how the division will handle the expanding populations, School Board members and supervisors have begun conversations with the county Planning Commission, said School Board Chairwoman Kate Acuff.

“I would just like to point out that I have met with [McKeel] and [Planning Commission Chairman] Tim Keller in the last month,” she said. “We need to get in better contact with the Planning Commission.”

 

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