Local Board members have been working towards fine-lining the budget for the 2018 – 2019 Craig County Public Schools academic year.
“This is a preliminary budget overview as we have not officially finished the budget,” Superintendent Jeanette Warwick said as she continued to share the Boards decisions, proposals and ideas at the monthly School Board meeting on Tuesday, February 6. “We will also be taking into consideration the information from the public hearing.”
Many teachers and staff were in attendance to hear Pat Myers, Jeanette Warwick, Susan Crenshaw, Gina Smith, Aaron Calfee and fellow board member Diana Bayne speak.
With state and federal guidelines, Warwick quoted certain bylaws which the Board cannot overstep. The main legal aspect was not spending any sum of money more than the funds available. “Basically, any member of the School Board or the Superintendent can be found guilty of malfeasance in office should we overspend the budget,” she said.
Warwick also addressed questions many had brought up about ‘carryover money’ – the year-end balance in the school year operating budget which fluctuates from year to year depending on many factors. “We have to consider state funds, especially with the number of students that we have as well as the revenues received by the state,” Warwick added. “Many state revenues are not known until the end of June, and some expenditures are very unpredictable such as fuel prices and things such as snow removal.”
A recap of past years’ carryover spending consisted of helping to balance the operating budget, the addition of new camera systems being added to the school buses and the parking lots getting paved.
Also purchased was a used passenger van to transport certain students to Roanoke when they go to private schools. “We were recently driving a bus, and it is much more economical driving a van,” Warwick said. “Also, we were able to use the small bus that we were taking to Roanoke, for the Paint Bank route, because again, we were taking a full-size bus and this saved the school much in fuel expenditures.”
Warwick also gave an overview of where funds come from. “Federal funds are very specific in their uses. Title II is only used for recruiting and special development for example,” she said. “It is reimbursement based. Therefore, we have to spend it and then ask for it to be reimbursed to us.”
Also, local money is provided by the Board of Supervisors. “Last year they cut our budget by $67, 533,” she added. “We receive limited fees from parents and some Adult Education reimbursement as well as Roanoke Valley Regional Board reimbursements which pay for our Regional Autism Program.”
Warwick gave a historical perspective on salary increases and benefits.
*2016-17 – two percent
*2015-16 – 1.5 percent
*2014-15 – 0 percent
*2013-14 – six percent (However, employees were required to pay their five percent BRS contribution formally paid by the school.)
*2012-13 – 3.5 percent
*2010 -11-12- 0 percent
Last year, there was a nine percent Health Insurance increase, but the employees voted to keep the current health insurance in place.
Here is a breakdown of the monthly benefit the division pays for with each employee: $540.80 single, $655.80 dual and $770.60 family. The division pays 18.86 percent of employee salary for retirement, group life insurance and health insurance credit and 7.65 percent for SS and Medicare.
“In speaking with Board members and Ms. Duncan, Mr. Foster and central office, these are our priorities right now that we have identified,” Warwick said. “After we hear from the public, we will take those into consideration as well.”
The Board also updated all employees on the correct salary step, including the ones deserving their years of experience. “We have now placed them where they are supposed to be, and we have done that across the board with all employees,” Warrick said. The Board also will increase the beginning salary step for instructional assistants, custodians, buildings and grounds to be more competitive with other districts.
The good news was that there was no increase in insurance this year, enabling the school to maintain the current insurance package. Plans are to purchase another bus, hoping to keep with previous year’s vision to purchase one per year.
Because there are only five snow days left on the calendar, February 19 was changed from a holiday to a make-up day.
During the public hearing, teacher Donna Duplazes spoke on behalf of the CC Education Association. She raised concerns about the upcoming budget, timeliness of the public hearing, employee salaries, needed policy updates and rollover monies.
She handed each board member information on the facts of regional salaries of nine other school systems, proving that Craig County remains behind other counties. Duplazes also provided a chart with a five percent pay increase on teachers’ salaries, stating, “With this sizeable pay increase, we are still at the bottom.”
Duplazes said the employees had balanced the school budgets for several years by changing the insurance plans with higher deductibles and covering increasing premium, bringing homeless each year, yet teachers still return.
“Some say we are crazy, some say stupid, but we return because we love this county and its most valuable resource, its children,” she said.
Duplazes reported that the CCEA was pleased when the board recognized the hard work of the 12-month employees and granted them additional holidays. She is hoping they will also recognize the loyalty and hard work of the remaining employees, possibly with personal days.
It was noted that the reimbursement for sick leave was still $40 per day when people retire and had not been revised since 2001. “In 18 years, we are sure that inflation would warrant an increase,” she said.
CCEA feels that, “with the remainder of the rollover monies currently in the budget, the Board should have enough funds to take care of all capital budget expenditures.” Duplazes added, “Hopefully with those taken care of; the Board can emphasize a substantial pay increase for CCPS employees.”
Duplazes concluded by saying, “I beg of the board to address the long-term loyalty, dedication and hard work of CCPS employees. The members of the CC Education Association believe that children are our future and we are theirs.”
“I know where you are coming from as I have been there,” shared an ex-teacher and Board member. “Unfortunately, being on this side of the table, I have learned that we are committed to certain categories where money can only be spent.”
Susan Crenshaw added that the information was excellent, but felt that the people who also needed it were the “ones who are funding us.” She encouraged everyone to attend the Board of Supervisors meetings in the future.
Calfee also presented a 30-page report about prayer in schools. He shared much information about what he had discovered was allowed by the Constitution and the laws in the U.S.A.
“The best cases that I have found that legislative prayer is allowed by our Constitution and by our laws in America,” he said. “I’m not here to try to persuade anyone one way or another. Whether you are a Muslim or Christian, you are free to worship with freedom and that is the greatest thing about America. To me as an American, not a Christian, but a moment of silence is not freedom, but silence.”
Calfee handed out a case that he studied which went before court legislation prayer all the way back to the writing of the Constitution. “Several school boards in our state pray before their school Board meeting, so it is not unheard of,” he said. “It’s been challenged several times and hasn’t lost because it is protected by our laws in this country.”
He requested that the report be made open to the Board and to the community to view. Warwick stated that it could be shared.
The next scheduled Board meeting will be on Tuesday, March 6, in the Media Room at 6:30 p.m.