Albemarle County Public Schools Superintendent Pam Moran and Deputy Superintendent Matt Haas on Thursday presented a $188.1 million funding request for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Haas will replace Moran as superintendent on July 1. “This ultimately is [Haas’] continuation of our work, going forward into the next year,” Moran said.
Moran’s funding request for the 2019 fiscal year is a $7.58 million, or 4.2 percent, increase over the current year’s $180.5 million.
The spending plan for the coming school year faces a $1.26 million revenue gap— larger than the $691,000 deficit in Moran’s initial request for 2017-2018, but is still among the lowest in recent years.
One factor contributing to the deficit is a $440,000 decrease in state revenues due to changes in the Virginia Department of Education’s composite index for Albemarle County.
Calculated every two years, the local composite index is used by the VDOE to calculate the state’s share of projected school division payments for the Governor’s budget.
Factors used to calculate the index include a locality’s true property values, adjusted gross income, taxable retail sales, population, and the average daily membership of its school system.
Haas said the six-percent increase in Albemarle’s composite index was the largest of any Virginia locality for 2018-2020. The increase is largely attributable to the 28 percent growth in adjusted gross income of county residents in the two-year period ending in November 2017.
Albemarle’s new composite index would reduce the state’s annual contribution to the school division by more than $2 million. Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam’s proposed budget includes $1.9 million in supplementary funding for Albemarle County to partially offset the impact of Albemarle’s local composite index recalculation.
Moran recommended using half of this funding in 2018-2019 and the remaining funds in 2019-2020.
Moran said the theme of the school division’s budget proposal has shifted from “Equity and Access” in 2017 to “Equity and Opportunity” this year.
“There are actions we can take to remove barriers to opportunity,” Moran said. “We’re not just saying, ‘We are going to give you access.’ We are going to give you the opportunity to fully participate.”
Moran proposed spending $200,000 to eliminate all student fees for classes, and another $190,000 for a new bus system to shuttle high school students to a specialized academy program at a school they are not districted to attend.
Moran’s request continues to fund the Social, Emotional and Academic Development (SEAD) program at the county’s four urban ring elementary schools, part of the 2017 Equity and Access budget initiative.
The proposed spending plan would add a “short-term education program” at the county’s middle schools as an alternative to out-of-school suspensions for some students. This program is currently being piloted at Burley Middle School.
“Kids who are in that program are not leaving school with chronic absences, and they are going back into classrooms and demonstrating that they can get the results as learners that we want to see,” Moran said.
Over $4.5 million of the proposed $7.58 million spending increase would go towards mandated programs, salary increases and staffing growth. It includes $1.53 million for a 2 percent compensation increase for teachers, and $1.12 million in classified staff raises.
Moran recommended spending an additional $1.53 million to restructure the pay scale for teachers such that salaries will increase at a constant rate for each additional year of experience.
Moran said shifting to the new pay scale will require a one-time compensation adjustment that would help the county address competitive market shortfalls for teachers with five to twenty years of experience.
The proposed spending plan also would extend health insurance coverage to most part-time employees for an estimated $350,000.
“In a strong economy… the people that we are most at-risk to lose are our part time employees,” said Moran.
Moran requested the addition of about 16 new teaching positions to accommodate an estimated 249 additional students in the 2018-2019 school year.
The funding request also includes $1.16 million to add 11 full-time staff for special education students and several specialists in the division’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.
Since 2011, Albemarle County’s special education and ESOL populations have grown by 22.3 percent and 32.9 percent, respectively.
About $2.03 million of the proposed spending increase would go towards advancing Albemarle’s strategic priorities, such as its High School 2022 initiative.
In December, the county School Board voted to pursue the creation of one or two new centers dedicated to project-based learning for high school students. Moran’s funding request for 2018-2019 includes $600,000 to pilot a small high school center as a proof of concept.
Haas said the pilot center would accommodate 40 to 60 students, as well as the school division’s technology staff. He said the center was likely to be located near or within the county’s urban ring.
The funding request includes $378,270 to implement a seminar course aimed enhancing 9th-graders’ academic preparedness and emotional wellbeing. It also would hire three instructional coaches to support High School 2022 programming at a cost of about $226,000.
In response to feedback from high school students, Moran requested $160,000 for full-time Region 10 mental health counselors at all three of the county’s comprehensive high schools. Monticello High School and Western Albemarle High School currently have part-time counselors.
Moran said key spending reductions for next year include a $1.05 million cut to health insurance premiums; $853,000 in savings from closing Benjamin F. Yancey Elementary School in 2017; $770,000 in lowered salary costs from staff turnover; a $588,000 decrease in the division’s contribution to the Virginia Retirement System.
The Albemarle County School Board has budget work sessions scheduled for Jan. 23 and Jan. 25. The School Board will hold a public hearing on the budget Jan. 30.