City Council briefed on city schools’ funding request

The Charlottesville School Board presented the division’s $78.4 million funding request to the City Council on Monday.

Councilors asked questions about, but did not discuss, the spending plan.

“This is a report where we do not have a decision ahead of us now,” Mayor Mike Signer said. “We have lots of discussion ahead of us.”

The funding request is a $2.7 million, or 3.6 percent, increase over the current budget. The spending plan is balanced on a projected increase of $ million from the city.

The division expects to spend more than $1.5 million for pay increases and seven new staff positions. The plan includes $810,000 to pay for a 2 percent average raise for division staff.

The increase is aimed at keeping the division competitive in hiring high-quality teachers, said Kim Powell, city schools director of budget and finance. The city schools pay well enough to attract teachers away from neighboring divisions, she said.

“Having worked at other neighboring divisions, I can tell you you get very good teaching professionals coming in who work in other localities until they get some experience,” Powell said.

The new positions focus largely on bolstering the schools’ science, technology, engineering and math curriculum. The funding request includes a lead math teacher, an elementary school iSTEM teacher, restructuring STEM positions and materials to support STEM curricula.

Substitute teacher pay would move to a two-tiered system next year: Substitutes with teaching certificates would make $85 a day, and those without would be paid $80 a day.

The original spending plan outlined a three-tiered system in which licensed teachers made $91 a day, those with four-year degrees made $81 a day and those with at least an associate’s degree would have been paid $75 a day.

To balance projected revenues and expenses, the School Board directed staff to find savings in employee health care costs, which originally were expected to increase 9 percent in the coming fiscal year. The board in February asked staff to cut that increase to 7 percent.

That reduction should be worth about $80,000, staff said.

Non-discretionary expenses — retirements, transportation, taxes and security — will grow by $1.1 million next year. Those costs originally were expected to increase by $1.3 million.

School Board Chairwoman Amy Laufer praised city schools staff for keeping the division’s success indicators high while state revenues have declined.

Laufer read off a list of universities that included Yale and Princeton that accepted Charlottesville High School graduates last year.

“For a public school to be able to get that many students into that many top-level universities is really a testament to the people working in those schools and the community,” she said.

The overall graduation rate for Charlottesville students is 85 percent, documents showed, while the African-American graduation rate has climbed to 80 percent, from 66 percent in 2009.

As state support has dwindled over the last six years, the local contribution to the division is increasingly critical, Powell said.

“Local support has been key in achieving those points of pride,” she said.

Councilor Wes Bellamy congratulated the schools on the achievements.

“We are proud of what we have done so far, but there is work to be done and we are working very hard to get there,” he said.