Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Chesterfield school chief hopes to add 100 teachers
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Feb 17, 2014, 13:56

CHESTERFIELD — Chesterfield Public Schools Superintendent Marcus Newsome has put forth a plan that would restore millions of dollars in funding that were cut as the economy nose-dived in 2008 and 2009.

He is proposing adding more than 100 teachers while increasing spending about 6.5 percent.

But his original plan presented two weeks ago had an unfunded gap of about $12 million. County leaders are working to reduce that budget gap, but it could still require a tax rate increase to make up the difference.

The proposed fiscal year 2015 operating budget is $568.8 million with about half of that amount coming from county taxes. The FY 2014 budget is about $534 million.

Newsome said Chesterfield voters overwhelmingly supported a bond referendum in November that would help rebuild the physical infrastructure of the school system. He said this budget proposal would help revitalize what goes on inside those facilities.

“Strong schools are a good investment in our community. There’s research that clearly states that students who have a good education find gainful employment and have stable families,” Newsome said.

New budget initiatives include:

• $6,271,000 to decrease the student to teacher ratio.

• $2,940,000 to continue a Jan. 1, 2014, salary increase.

• 3,800,000 for a 1 percent salary increase effective July 2014.

• $375,000 to restore athletic/academic supplements for extra-curricular activities. The stipends were cut by 15 percent in 2009.

• $8,610,100 to fund a Virginia Retirement System rate change.

• $2,700,000 for increased health-care costs.

• $1,418,000 to pay for student growth. The FY 2015 budget anticipates 473 new students for a total of 58,867.

• $935,000 for an initiative to lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. This money will pay for 17 new teaching positions.

• $1,500,000 for the new Chesterfield Career and Technical Center @ Hull, which is scheduled to open in September. The new center will require 34 total positions.

Chesterfield schools have cut teachers drastically in recent years. The school system had the equivalent of 7,493 teachers in FY 2009, while it had the equivalent of 7,010 teachers in FY 2014.

“Currently, Chesterfield County has one of the largest per pupil-teacher ratios in Virginia,” Newsome said.

But Newsome said they are not looking to cut class sizes across the board.

Areas they would like to target would be fourth and fifth grade and areas where students are not performing up to expectations. High school math is one area that will be targeted.

Newsome acknowledged that a tax increase may be needed to get what he wants, but is prepared to make some cuts to lower the $12 million budget gap.

Newsome said he had recommendations that could bring the budget gap down to $8,690,300.

Some ways being considered are outsourcing custodial services and grounds maintenance, eliminating driver’s education.

They might also hold off on spending $850,000 to fund tuition reimbursement for professional development for teachers in hard-to-fill areas and certification to teach dual-enrollment classes.

They might also have to cut funding for instructional substitutes, the radio shop and information technology.

“At this point, additional funding has not been identified. It is the obligation of the superintendent to present the needs of the school division. In working with our community, they have identified this as a very important need,” Newsome said.

He said if they money is not available this year, they will still keep pushing for more teachers.

“We’ll continue to advocated for smaller class sizes,” he said.

The School Board is set to hold a work session on Feb. 18. A Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors/School Board Liaison Committee meeting is set for Feb. 24. The School Board could approve its budget on Feb. 25.

Any additional funding would have to approved by the Board of Supervisors and could require an increase in the real estate tax rate. The Board of Supervisors voted Feb. 12 to advertise a potential tax rate increase of 4.6 percent in order to possibly fund school and stormwater improvements.

County Administrator Jay Stegmaier’s proposed budget will be presented March 10.

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