Thanks largely to an overestimated health care cost increase for county employees this year, the Albemarle County Public Schools expect their budget gap to be closed by the time their final spending plan is approved.
Health care costs originally were expected to increase by 14 percent for county employees, but the final number came in closer to 9 percent, school officials said.
The new estimate frees up about $870,000 for county schools, which are facing a $1.1 million spending gap based on the county supervisors’ advertised real estate tax rate of 84.4 cents per $100 of assessed value, said Dean Tistadt, county schools chief operating officer.
The portion of the gap not covered by the health care estimate reduction will come from a $150,000 increase in expected state funding and a $250,000 reduction in the county’s contribution to the Piedmont Regional Education Program.
If the supervisors do not approve the tax increase, of which 0.4 cents is aimed at schools, Tistadt said, the gap will be closer to $1.7 million.
“It’s not done until the School Board acts upon the budget, and all of those are contingent upon the Board of Supervisors approving the tax increase,” he said.
The $174,163,445 proposed budget is a 4.2-percent increase over the current spending plan.
More than 70 percent of the budget increase will go to increasing staff salaries. The schools will spend $2.3 million increasing teacher and staff salaries by an average of 2 percent.
Tistadt said he is satisfied with the balanced operating spending plan but warned that the county still faces steep challenges in the school division’s capital improvement plan.
“This year turned out to be OK. The state stepped up more than it has in recent years, and the supervisors have helped out,” Tistadt said. “This particular operating year is not the worst we have been through, but the capital improvement plan continues to worry me.”
Supervisors will hold a public hearing and take a vote on the tax rate on April 12, followed by final adoption on April 13.