The School Board passed a budget weeks ago with salary scales and health insurance rates included. But since that time our anticipated funding from the state has changed and the Board of Supervisors has decided on next year’s tax rate. It happens like this pretty much every year. The School Board passes an initial budget because we need a best guess of state funding to know what to request from the county. Then, once we know what the county will kick in, we don’t have much time to make the big decisions on salaries and health insurance rates before employee contracts are offered in May. So we pre-plan with the information available at the time and make adjustments when “final” numbers come in.
As if it were that easy. Our “final” numbers for both revenues and expenses are never very final. For example, the state gives us money based on student enrollment but they count heads and pay up several times during the year. State money is about half our budget so changes in enrollment during the budget cycle can make a big difference in revenue. On the expense side (another example) salaries are a huge portion of the budget, and although we can know in advance how many employees will start the school year in August, the amount needed for their salaries will certainly change over the summer. Our largest category of employees are teachers, and because we bring new teachers in on salary scale B, depending on how many leave from scale A, salary expenses will definitely fluctuate.
What I’m trying to say is the School Board met Wednesday night primarily to set salary scales and health insurance rates, now that we have a better idea of “final” revenues.
The administration presented the Board with salary scales reflecting a 1% minimum increase for all employees, and a 2% average increase across all the scales (not by employee category). It was also recommended that the School Board cover the inevitable increase in health insurance rates within the budget, keeping premiums level for employees. There was some discussion about raising salaries more and having employees take over the health insurance increase. It was brought out that 25% of our employees don’t participate in our health insurance program, so they don’t benefit from these annual increases. Also, because the Va. Retirement System uses salary to determine retirement, a greater increase in salary results in a greater increase in benefits. On the downside, transferring the increase in cost of health insurance to the employee would mean the division pays that amount to 25% more people, they’d pay more in FICA, VRS, and related taxes and fees, and though passing on just the increase might not affect this, there are minimum requirements of our current insurance provider and SOQ funding for a partial employer share.
Accepting the administration’s recommendation on both salaries and health insurance rates would use $682,000 of the $776,000 provided by the Board of Supervisors for operational purposes. This would leave only $94,000 available for other needs presented by the schools including additional custodians and instructional aides, as well as the much discussed (with the Board of Supervisors) additional Career and Technical Education teacher, school psychologist, and Instructional Technology Resource Teacher.
The evening ended in four action items (votes). All Board members voted in favor of the Special Education Annual Plan, which secures about $770,000 in federal funds (which gets added to about $1.3 million in state funds and $5.5 million in local money) for special ed. All voted in favor of a $2500 annual Va. School Boards Association policy services agreement (for legal advice on school policy). All members voted in favor of the administration’s recommended health insurance rates (an increase of 7.1% not passed on to employees). All but one Board member (me again) voted in favor of the administration’s recommended salary scales. I voted against this with the comment that I believe we should have looked at more than one proposal.
The Extended Service Plan was on the agenda, but it was not an action item. The Board listened to a description of what we can expect to see presented at the next regular meeting on May 11. That meeting will probably be longer than this one. Maybe I should start blogging in installments.
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