Thornton proposes $68 mil budget

Published 8:05 pm Tuesday, February 18, 2020

By Stephen Faleski

Tidewater News

On Thursday, Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton presented Isle of Wight County’s school board with a proposed $68.2 million budget for the 2020-2021 school year.

The total amounts to a roughly $2.9 million increase over the school division’s 2019-2020 budget, though the bulk of the increase is to come from additional state funding rather than local taxpayer dollars. 

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The school division plans to ask the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors for just over $27.6 million in local funding, which amounts to a $694,001 increase over what the county contributed to the division’s budget at the beginning of the current fiscal year. By comparison, around this time last year, the division had proposed asking the county for a roughly $2.4 million increase in 2019-2020 over what it had received in local funds for the previous school year. The county’s Board of Supervisors then reduced this increase to just under $1 million. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

According to Thornton, Isle of Wight County Schools’ student population is projected to rise by just over 184 students between now and the start of the next school year for a division-wide total of 5,605. As such, Gov. Ralph Northam’s state budget proposal, dated Dec. 17, 2019, calls for the division to receive an increase of just over $2 million.

The division is also anticipating a $1.1 million increase in required expenditures, including a $245,553 increase in its contribution to the Virginia Retirement System, a $477,864 increase in health insurance premiums and a $144,613 increase in the tuition the division pays to the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs (SECEP) — a joint effort between the school systems of Chesapeake, Franklin, Isle of Wight, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Southampton, Suffolk and Virginia Beach to operate programs for children with special needs.

Thornton’s proposed budget also calls for $982,263 in raises and incentives for current personnel, the bulk of which — $566,634 — will go to teachers. IWCS uses a step system for determining teacher pay, which grants raises to teachers every year through their 32nd year of teaching. The allocated money for teacher salaries, according to IWCS spokeswoman Lynn Briggs, will fund all step increases for the next school year, and will also correct any teachers whose step and years of experience currently do not match.

“Let’s say we have an employee who has 15 years of service, but was with us when steps were frozen for two years,” Briggs explained. “Their step reflects two fewer years of service. Meanwhile, say a person transfers to IWCS also with 15 years of service. They’re coming in with their step reflecting all 15 of those years. We can and we do have people with the same number of years of experience on different steps because they were here during previous freezes that had not been corrected.”

Several new positions are also budgeted at a total cost of $784,679, including $245,880 to implement the new alternating week schedule for the Career and Technical Education program. 

The next budget discussion will occur at a 9 a.m. work session on Tuesday, Feb. 18, in the IWCS Central Office, located behind Westside Elementary School. A public hearing on the budget will follow on Thursday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m., in the Smithfield High School auditorium. Another work session at the Central Office is scheduled for Thursday, March 5, at 9 a.m., with a final vote on the budget scheduled for March 12, 6 p.m. at the Isle of Wight Courthouse complex. 

After approval by the School Board, the budget passes on to the Board of Supervisors for consideration. {/mprestriction}