Last year, Supervisors cut more than $67,000 in local money from schools. Now school representatives are asking the Craig County Board of Supervisors to restore that for the upcoming fiscal year so that the lowest-paid employees can get much-needed increases.
The two boards met briefly on March 1 for School Superintendent Jeanette Warwick to plead the case for restoring the money to put Craig County on more of a level playing field, as far as employees are concerned. The total proposed school budget at this time is $7.01 million, with $1.88 million of that in local funds. State funds are projected to be $4.4 million, but that’s not a definite figure yet.
The current $6.9-million budget this school year which ends June 30 reflects $1.82 million in local money. The School Board had asked for additional money – which Warwick pointed out “Supervisors promised us if they took that money out of our budget last year they would restore it this year.”
Supervisors made no promises at the March 1 meeting. Schools do not yet know how much state money will be approved until the Virginia legislature and governor approve the state budget and school funds in it. Another joint meeting between the Craig Supervisors and School Board is set for April 12.
Before the School Board session with Supervisors, Warwick pointed out this is the third year of a flat budget for Craig Schools.
“We have raised the zero steps (beginning salaries) in line with Giles County, she said, “but Craig is still among the lowest in the state for school salaries. I feel we need to compensate teachers,” Warwick emphasized. “We are asking for a two-step increase. In other jurisdictions, you’re talking about teachers getting $6,000 to $10,000 more.”
Craig Schools’ two principals’ salaries are one number from the least paid out of the 132 school systems in the state, 131, Warwick said, and her salary is the lowest in the state. Beginning teachers now get $32,500 a year in Craig, and the School Board is proposing starting at $35,000. Teaching assistants start at $11,929, with $14,500 proposed. School custodians get $15,883, and the proposed starting salary is $17,600.
Much of school expenditures are mandated by state standards. The Craig School Board has taken several belt-tightening steps already for next year’s budget, including not replacing a school bus, a bus driver position and one elementary school teacher when they retire this year, the superintendent told Supervisors. The position of director of support services is being cut out, and will be absorbed into the superintendent’s office, she added.
Craig Schools have about 80 employees, Schools Director of Finance Heather Duncan said.
Next year’s Craig Schools’ budget is based on an Average Daily Membership (number of students) of 550. The current year, Craig had 588 ADM. The state provides money based on the ADM for each jurisdiction.
In response to a question by Craig City Supervisor Rusty Zimmerman, Warwick said the price to educate Craig students is about $6,100 per child.
School Board Chairman Pat Myers and members Gina Smith, Sue Crenshaw, Aaron Calfee, and George Foster were present at the meeting, in addition to all five Supervisors.
Supervisor Chairman Jesse Spence told Warwick and Duncan, “I like your presentation (of the budget figures). It is better detailed than in the past.”
Until the 2016-2017 school year, Craig County government had a memorandum of understanding with the School Board about how much in local funds the county would provide. The Virginia Department of Education tells counties what minimum local funding is. Craig usually gives more.
In addition to local money, the rest of the Craig Schools’ budget comes from state and federal money, including federal payments from the Forest Service in lieu of taxes.
New Craig County Administrator Dan Collins told Supervisors he would continue to work with budget figures, both anticipated revenue and expenditures.
The March 1 Supervisors’ meeting adjourned to a March 15 Budget Work Session, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. It will be the first official budget work session for the next fiscal year.