School budget calls for tax increase
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Feb 11, 2013, 11:39
Prince George County Public School Superintendent Dr. Bobby Browder briefed the school board on his proposed budget for FY 2013-14 on Wednesday night in a presentation that dubbed 2014 “the breaking point.”
In order to combat what are described as “continued and relentless funding reductions and cost increases,” Browder is asking for help through means only the Prince George County Board of Supervisors will be able to implement.
“The recommendation is to provide for a permanent increase in local funding in excess of one million, and, yes, this will necessitate a tax increase in order to reach this goal,” Browder said to a packed room on Wednesday night.
The school board does not have authority to set or levy taxes, but Browder wants to ask the county to do so. If the division does not receive an increase in funding, students will suffer, Browder said.
“Yes, there will be, from the superintendent’s perspective, from my perspective, a reduction in services for young people,” he said.
Browder listed increased costs in health insurance, losses in federal funding and a required 1.5 percent employee raise to cover VRS contributions as the driving forces behind the need for a permanent increase in local funding.
Browder has also suggested meeting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to grant teachers a 2 percent pay raise by July. Due to teacher pay periods in the county, the raise can not be put in effect until September, which would necessitate the implementation of a 2.4 percent raise under McDonnell’s proposal. Browder has proposed a 2.5 percent step increase.
Following the Governor’s plan will bring an additional $382,561 in state money to provide the raise for standards of quality funded instructional positions. The required local match is $128,406. Prince George County has more employees than covered by the standards of quality and intends to provide an equivalent raise to all employees, not just instructional staff, creating a $510,667 gap between the funding available for the raise and the cost of the raise.
Although the raises have been proposed, it remains to be seen if the division can afford to keep the initiative in the budget.
The county’s school division has made significant cuts in the last five years and is now operating on a smaller budget than it was in 2009, despite the fact that there are approximately 150 more students in the division now. The division has also been functioning with 25 fewer employees than it had in 2009.
Last year, the school division faced a VRS increase of $1.8 million, a health insurance increase of $906,000 and a group life insurance increase of $312,000, which created a funding gap closed with a one time infusion of $1.277 million in county funds,
This year, the district is also expecting a loss in funds due to sequestration. In the realm of Impact Aid, federal funds given to the district to help pay for the education of student’s from Fort Lee, whose parents do not pay local property taxes, Prince George is bracing for a decrease of $231,000.
Cuts are also expected in Title I programs, special education programs and career and technical programs due to sequestration.
Total losses as a result of sequestration will add up to $450,000.
This year, the division intends to cut 17 positions, some of which are currently staffed. The net position reductions will include one administrative position, one clerical position, 11 teaching positions and four instructional assistant/interpreter positions.
“We’re hoping that can be through attrition across the board,” Browder said.
Nothing is certain at this point. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to pass a new package of spending cuts and tax increases to prevent the sequestration from going into effect on March 1.
At the state and local level, both the General Assembly and Board of Supervisors have yet to finalize budget plans.
“Much is ahead of us as we move through this,” Browder said.
Budget work sessions have been scheduled throughout the month and a public hearing on the budget is set for Feb. 19 at 6 p.m.
At the Wednesday night meeting, school board member Robert Cox said that this will be another difficult budget year, with similar challenges similar to those faced last year.
“We’ll do what’s best for the school system. That’s why we’re here,” he said to a room full of school division employees. “We want to see you all treated fairly. We want to see our kids in Prince George treated fairly and receive the best possible education they can get.”