The City of Fredericksburg Public Schools is proposing a 6.5% increase for all staff as part of next year’s operating budget.
On Monday, the division’s director of finance, Jennifer Brody, presented the proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2023 to the school board.
The proposed total budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is $54.2 million, up from $50.5 million for the current year, but Brody said the additional revenue will come primarily from state sources and federal.
“We’re only asking the city what has been consistent with previous years,” she said.
The school division is seeking $850,000 in new revenue from city council, for a total local allocation of approximately $30.9 million. The proposed budget also calls for an increase in state revenue to a total of $22 million.
The new revenue would pay for staff salary increases — which exceed the 5% increases for teaching and support positions needed to meet state standards included in the governor’s proposed budget — and planned increases for health insurance premiums.
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Brody said between 80 and 90 percent of the school division’s total operating budget is spent on salaries and benefits.
She said the main objective of the proposed budget is to help improve the recruitment and retention of teachers and support staff, such as bus drivers and substitute teachers, and improve teacher morale.
Operating fund increases will also support the continuation and expansion of the teacher mentorship program, Brody said.
Research has shown that mentoring programs can help retain teachers, which Deputy Superintendent Matt Eberhardt says is important given the nationwide teacher shortage.
“Not only is there a shortage, but teachers are leaving the profession altogether,” Eberhardt said. “It’s very concerning.”
Brody said the school board will have more decisions to make about this budget than it normally does, given “potential changes in state revenue.”
Lawmakers in both houses of the General Assembly are still crafting the state budget, but Brody said she expects new revenue models in the coming weeks.
Brody also provided the school board with an update on the status of the three rounds of federal pandemic relief funding, known as the ESSER funds.
City schools have received a total of $12.4 million in relief funds and will have $5.6 million left at the start of the new fiscal year. The division proposes to spend $1.9 million of ESSER funds in fiscal year 2023, largely to continue to pay salary and benefits for new positions created to help students recover from the loss of learning and supporting families.
These positions include math and literacy coaches, student support specialists, nursing assistant and social worker.
Eberhardt said the assistance programs run by people in these positions — which include targeted efforts to prevent dropouts and improve on-time graduation rates and job readiness — have been successful.
“We have data showing that they are successful,” he said. “There are fewer suspensions and dropouts. But these positions are funded by ESSER.
As pandemic funds run out and enrollment rates recover from the pandemic and require new staff, the Division and the community of Fredericksburg will need to have conversations about how to continue funding all priorities, Eberhardt said.
The division also plans to use ESSER funds to pay for renovations to Walker–Grant Middle School so it can reopen as the Third City Elementary School. The scope of these renovations is still unclear and depends on how the city moves forward with building a new college or repurposing the old hospital building at 2300 Fall Hill Ave.
The school board will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at its next regular meeting on March 7.
“We would love to see families there to talk about their budget priorities,” Brody said.