Surry School Board seeks 4.8% increase from supervisors for 2024-25

Published 5:29 pm Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Surry County Public Schools is seeking just over $600,000 in additional local funding for the coming 2024-25 school year.

Surry’s School Board voted unanimously on March 5 to adopt an $18.5 million 2024-25 budget, a 3% increase over the $17.9 million budget the board approved last year. The budget calls for just under $13.7 million, or nearly three-fourths of the total, to come from county supervisors.

The supervisors contributed just over $13 million in local dollars to Surry’s school system at the start of the current school year. This year’s request amounts to a 4.8% increase.

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Last year’s contribution amounted to a 27.5% share of the county’s overall $65.2 million budget.

Surry’s local education funding, while lower than the $30.1 million or 32% neighboring Isle of Wight County allocated last year to its school system, reflects a much higher local per-pupil cost.

Isle of Wight received roughly 13 times as much state funding as Surry last year. As a result, Isle of Wight’s local share of education costs amounts to just $5,500 per student with 5,479 enrolled as of Sept. 30 compared to the roughly $19,600 Surry spends on 660 students.

Surry’s supervisors are scheduled to discuss the School Board’s local funding request on March 14. School funding will be incorporated into County Administrator Melissa Rollins’ draft 2024-25 budget, which she’s scheduled to present to the supervisors on April 4.

The supervisors are scheduled to hold a series of budget work sessions throughout April, hold a public hearing on the county budget on May 2 and vote May 9 to set tax rates and adopt a final budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The School Board budget is composed of three funds: the general fund, grants fund and food services fund. The general fund, budgeted at $17.1 million, accounts for 92% of the school system’s planned expenses.

The school grants fund, budgeted at $707,499, amounts to a decrease of $101,558 or 12.5% from the prior year. State funding accounts for $3.38 million, down just over $25,000 or 0.75% from the $3.4 million in state funding Surry’s schools received for the current school year.

Included in the School Board’s budget is $507,566 to provide school employees their annual raises under Surry’s 29-step pay scale and the minimum 3% salary increase proposed in Virginia’s 2024-26 biennial budget bill.

“This plan reflects a combination of reductions in prior year staffing levels and related costs; as well as a request for a modest increase in local funding support for FY 2024-2025,” Surry Superintendent Serbrenia Sims stated in a March 5 letter to the School Board. “I believe that this combination of sustainable spending reductions and increased local investments will demonstrate our commitment to providing the citizens and students of Surry County with a high performing education system, based on sound fiscal and instructional practices.”

The combination of local step increases and the state-mandated raises will result in school employees receiving raises ranging from 3% to 9%.

“For the second year since the 2007-2008 budget, there is an intentional differentiation of proposed raises for instructional staff members,” Sims’ letter states. “Many of our instructional employees have been with us since this time and endured the compression of our salary scales. This proposed budget will allow select instructional employees to advance a minimum of two steps on the salary scale.”