Thornton trims part of request

Published 6:13 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer 

Several new positions were cut from the initial  Isle of Wight County schools budget proposal, reducing the county funding request by $450,000, while starting teacher salaries were increased.

The School Board plans to ask the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors for $28.2 million — which still represents a 7.5 percent increase from last year’s local contribution of $26.2 million.  

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The changes to the proposed budget were discussed Thursday at a School Board work session. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

While some line items were cut, others were added to create an overall operational budget of $66.3 million, compared to the initial $66.9 million when the budget was first introduced. 

Line items that were added to the budget proposal included a bump to the first five-year teacher salary, costing $640,923, and three additional elementary S.T.E.M. teachers at an expense of $190,700, according to Isle of Wight County schools spokesperson Lynn Briggs.  

“We all agreed that the bottom of our scale, those first few steps, really need to be adjusted,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton on the pay raise. Teacher raises had been included in the previous budget proposal, but weren’t specified to a specific experience level.  

The starting salary for teachers in the county was raised from $41,310 to $44,000 in the proposal, and the first five years’ salary reflects a $120 pay raise each year.  

On budget cuts, four guidance counselors, at a cost of $285,000, were removed from the budget proposal in response to additional amendments that Governor Ralph Northam made to his biennial budget. Overall, the state contribution was cut by $165,958, down to $32.7 million, during the budgetary process between the governor and the General Assembly, according to Thornton. 

“That is the new approved budget … we actually are getting less state money. That’s a negative, right off the bat,” said Thornton. 

Last December, Northam’s budget amendments called for a bolstering of guidance counselors in Virginia schools, and seven additional counselors were thus required for Isle of Wight schools, according to Thornton. Last month, Thornton expressed that it may be difficult finding seven guidance counselors for the county, but since then, the specific requirement has been reduced to three.  

The role of process facilitator was also removed from the proposed budget. At an expense of $71,364 each, the five positions in the previous proposal cost about $356,500.  

The position would have been new to the county and would have provided additional staff to assist school principals and assistant principals with tailoring special education students’ curriculum, according to Briggs.  

“It’s a tough year to add a new position, when we have so many things that we have to add,” said School Board member Kirstin Cook at the Thursday budget meeting.

Six additional building support staff, at a total cost of $181,932, were also removed. Support staff would have provided jack-of-all-trades type positions in order to fill staffing gaps, requested by building administrators, according to Briggs.   

Other cuts included a part-time nurse assistant position, a requested finance position, technology funding for additional laptops and the purchase of vans/buses and contracted human resources services, combined equaling roughly $400,000 in cuts. 

More additions to the budget proposal include EpiPens costing $3,500 and a secretary at Windsor High School at an expense of $42,000.  {/mprestriction}