By Aila Boyd

Botetourt County Public Schools held a budget work session last Wednesday to iron out further details about the budget that it will ultimately submit to the Board of Supervisors.

Discussion centered around salary corrections and salary scale increases for teachers, something that has been a difficult issue to address ever since the 2007/2008 financial crisis.

School Superintendent John Busher updated members with figures pertaining to state revenue for the upcoming fiscal year. In FY 2018-2019, state revenue for the school division was $25,506,362. In FY 2019-2020, state revenue received by the division will be $26,429,322, which means that there will be an increase of $922,960.

Currently, the school division is looking at a $609,528 proposed personnel budget deficit. It will cost an estimated $2,074,139 to continue step increases across the board, provide one correction step for eligible employees, adjust the salary scale by 2 percent, in addition to a 7 percent insurance cost increase.

The breakdown for each of the items listed above is as follows:

  • $971,480 to continue step increases across the board
  • $111,804 to provide one correction step for eligible employees
  • $663,129 to adjust the salary scale by two percent
  • $327,726 for a seven percent insurance cost increase

After the $922,960 addition of revenue from the state budget and $541,651 from the proposed personnel budget reductions, that leaves the division with a $609,528 personnel budget deficit.

Underscoring the importance of the proposed salary scale increase, Jill Green, director of human resources, noted that the division’s ability to offer competitive wages to new teachers is a vital part of recruitment.

“It’s not about the buildings or the books,” Busher said in terms of what makes the division successful. “It’s the people— that’s where the magic happens.”

Currently, the starting salary for a teacher in Botetourt County is $38,350.

During the meeting, salaries for surrounding school divisions were analyzed in comparison to Botetourt County’s.

With the proposed 2 percent increase, Botetourt County would be more in line with existing pay rates. With that being said, Busher cautioned that the salaries offered by surrounding school divisions will not stay static.

If the 2 percent increase pans out, teachers with zero years of experience will earn $39,117— a $767 increase.

The only school division with a lower starting salary that was looked at is Franklin County, with new teachers earning $36,662 per year. The City of Salem came in with the highest with $42,000.

Botetourt County Public Schools teachers who are currently on step 10 make $47,171 per year, but would make $48,114 if the proposed 2 percent increase goes into effect. Teachers who are on step 20 and are currently making $59,850 could see their salaries increase to $61,047.

In order to address the budget deficient, personnel budget reductions are being considered. The total cost of the proposed eight position reductions is $541,651. Proposed position reductions include one elementary teacher, six secondary teachers, and one career and technical education agriculture teacher.

Initial position requests include a career and technical education engineering teacher, a special education pre-school teacher, a school social worker, and a maintenance technician.

Additional non-personnel budget reductions that were suggested to bridge the deficient if needed include the freezing of supplements, reduction of CSIP (comprehensive school improvement plan) funding to schools, reduction of professional development/tuition assistance, implementation of pay to play for VHSL (Virginia High School League) sponsored activities, elimination of participation in the Governor’s School, and a $20 per month charge for employee-only health insurance.

Busher previously noted the importance of tuition assistance when it comes to helping currently employed teachers gain additional endorsements allowing them to teach subject areas, particularly math and science, that have been historically difficult to recruit qualified teachers for.

A public hearing on the proposed 2019-2020 budget will be held on March 28 at 5:30 p.m.