Supervisors, School Board reach funding agreement on 2% raises

Published 3:53 pm Friday, December 15, 2023

Isle of Wight County’s School Board and supervisors have reached an agreement that will fund 2% raises for teachers and other school employees effective Jan. 1.

Virginia’s General Assembly in a special September session passed legislation allocating $54.5 million in state funds to give public school employees a 2% raise on top of the 5% raises that took effect in July in accordance with the state’s 2022-24 biennium budget, for a total 7% increase this school year.  

IWCS Superintendent Theo Cramer certified to the state on Oct. 27, and the School Board affirmed in a Nov. 8 vote, that Isle of Wight would accept its $312,221 share of the state funding.

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After debating the matter for a month, the supervisors voted Dec. 14 to approve a $475,000 local match, which they and Isle of Wight County Schools say will extend the raises to nearly all school employees.

The state’s share is based on a funding formula known as the “composite index,” which calculates a division’s ability to pay the costs associated with meeting state-mandated minimum staffing levels based on enrollment, known as standards of quality, or “SOQ,” positions.

According to IWCS Human Resources Director Laura Sullivan, the division had 808 employees as of Dec. 7. Of these, just under 570 receive state funding as SOQ positions, though at a lower dollar amount than what Isle of Wight actually pays. Another 157 are in SOQ-equivalent instructional or support positions in excess of the minimum number required by the state, and as such don’t receive state funding. The remaining 82, among them the division’s preschool teachers, don’t have an SOQ equivalent and are partially funded by state grants rather than through the composite index formula.

Supervisor Dick Grice, whose term in office ends Dec. 31, had proposed in a Dec. 7 meeting with Board of Supervisors Chairman William McCarty and school officials to match the state’s share exactly, which Grice contended would have provided 2% raises to all but a tenth of school employees. He revised his offer on Dec. 14 to the agreed-upon $475,000 figure, which comes with a series of conditions related to the division’s ongoing efforts to resolve a deficit from the prior school year.

Cramer informed the School Board in August that the division had ended its 2022-23 school year with a deficit of just over $600,000, of which $438,506 remained as of mid-September. In accordance with Grice’s Dec. 14 motion, which the supervisors passed unanimously, the School Board voted the same evening to reallocate $213,466 in unspent textbook funds from the prior year to shrink the deficit to roughly $225,000.

Another condition of Grice’s motion IWCS Chief Financial Officer Larisa Harris says she’s agreed to requires the division’s finance department to continue working through the two-week Christmas break to ensure all data is provided to the county’s auditors by Dec. 31. Should the audit turn up any additional unspent money, a third condition of Grice’s motion requires the School Board to put the funds toward further reducing the deficit and, once paid off, return any excess to the county. 

A fourth condition, which the other supervisors persuaded Grice to strike from his motion, would have explicitly required the division exclude its two deputy superintendents from receiving the 2% raise. Grice had objected in November to giving raises to IWCS central office employees already earning six-figure salaries.

The $475,000 dollar amount, however, still reflects a $10,616 or 2% decrease from the $485,616 local match Harris had requested in November. The difference, according to Grice, is roughly equal to what would be paid to the two deputy superintendents as their 2% raises. Grice suggested IWCS could make up the difference through attrition, which occurs when the division saves money by hiring a less experienced employee at a lower rate of pay to replace one paid at a higher rate who leaves or retires.

“IWCS is proud to announce this increase to our employees, especially at this time of the year,” the division stated in a Dec. 15 email to its employees  “We commend our School Board and the Board of Supervisors for their commitment to making this possible.”

According to the email announcement, the only employees who won’t receive a 2% raise as a result of the funding agreement are coaches who are not employed in any other capacity with IWCS, substitute teachers, tutors and those in adult education supplemental positions.

Grice and McCarty said at their Dec. 7 and 14 meetings that continuing to fund IWCS salaries at their new rates come July 1 when the next fiscal year begins will require increasing the $30.1 million Isle of Wight County budgeted for IWCS at the start of the current school year by nearly another million dollars.