Last night’s School Board meeting included 9 reports, so even though we started at 3 in the afternoon in order to make the public hearing on the tax rate at 7 pm, the Board of Supervisors had already adjourned by the time we got there. (I’m told only one person spoke at the hearing and didn’t directly address the tax rate.)
That’s my gentle warning that this is a long post, but it’s also (I hope) a good way to find out what the School Board has to say about all the reported information before decisions are made.
It didn’t help keep us on schedule that one Board member (me) slowed down the vote on personnel recommendations with objections to filling an administrative position. I referenced the School Efficiency Review which reported that Fluvanna has 6.4 instructional administrative positions, while our neighboring peers average 4.1. In addition to saving the cost of the position, eliminating it would (in my opinion) allow our teachers to make more instructional decisions for the students they know best. A majority of the Board voted in favor of all personnel recommendations.
A lot of conversation centered around next year’s budget, specifically salaries and employee health insurance. While the state legislature passed a 2% average raise for next year, they don’t start their share until December, they don’t include all FCPS employees, they don’t account for associated increases in taxes and benefits, and they only pay based on SOQ determined rates. (Which means they contribute 2% of a salary they think should be $30,000, for example, when in reality it’s closer to $40,000. These SOQ rates were set many years ago and are not updated.) All this means the state will give us only a portion of what a 2% raise really costs.
The School Board didn’t consider turning down the state portion and forgoing the 2% raise, but there was a lot of discussion about how to apply it. The state allows averaging across employee categories, so the School Board can choose to essentially substitute these raises for established increases in salary scales resulting from increased years of experience, meaning some teachers (for example) may get very small raises while some may get larger ones, as long as the teacher average is 2%. This method costs significantly less money than a straight 2% raise for all and was how the School Board applied the last legislated raise.
However, there are drawbacks to this strategy of averaging. The Board discussed how these raises have come to replace steps on the salary scale, reducing the influence of years’ experience on salary increases. We discussed how, in comparison with other localities, we’re making no progress for Fluvanna when everyone goes up 2%. We touched on the importance of goodwill from our employees, who will be hoping for a “legislated 2%” raise, not an average across the category. In fact, I think employees might rightfully hope for 2% added to the next year’s step increase. This would not be an unrealistic expectation in better times.
Then there’s the cost of health insurance going up 7.1%.
The Board will meet April 27 at 6:30 to finalize decisions after we know the amount of our appropriation of local funding.
But wait, there’s more….We contracted for an energy audit of all school properties, in partnership with the county government. Almost half of the cost is for auditing the high school, and I wondered why since it was recently constructed. I was reminded it was designed in 2005 and technologies have since improved.
In conjunction with our application for federal (Perkins) funds for Career and Technical Education, the Board voted to approve the CTE Plan. I learned from the plan that CTE is funded with about $40,000 in Perkins funds, about $200,000 in state funds, and we spend about $600,000 in local funds to support the program.
The Board also voted to approve new FCPS Governance Protocols. The only change we made to what you can see online is the addition of a timeline in the section on School Board self-evaluation. The Board expects to take next year to develop a self-evaluation instrument.
I wasn’t all that disappointed to leave the School Board meeting for the Board of Supervisors, only to find I missed all the action. But they meet again on Wed, April 20 at 7:00 to adopt their budget. I won’t be late for that one!
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This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. The views expressed in this blog are purely my own and do not represent the Fluvanna County School Board, the school superintendent, or anyone else. Comments added by others are not necessarily my opinions and I am not responsible for their content.