Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story was unclear about the amount of elementary schools with a resource officer. Eight of the eleven elementary schools have partial coverage (officers rotate between schools), while the other three have an SRO on duty fulltime. The News Messenger regrets any confusion.
Montgomery County’s proposed budget that was unveiled in early March was described as a “bare bones” budget by County Administrator Craig Meadows and did not recommend a real estate tax increase for the sixth year in a row.
As it has been in most cases in recent years, the initial draft of the budget failed to meet the school system’s full request, instead allocating $1.5 million to it rather than the $2.3 million requested by the school board.
The majority of the school’s additional request for revenue is allocated for a 1.5 percent raise for teachers to help get them back on track with the system’s pay scale, which is based on tenure, increasing a little with each year of experience.
Miear has said that the funding is vital for getting teachers caught up on pay, but it still wouldn’t make starting salaries competitive with surrounding school systems. The starting wage in the county is $36,503, whereas Salem’s is over $40,000.
Radford City and Pulaski and Floyd counties also have higher starting salaries for beginning teachers by at least $2,000, with Giles County being the only surrounding school district to offer a lower starting wage.
It takes Montgomery County teachers between six and ten years to catch up to the surrounding school systems in pay.
However, Miear’s update to the supervisors at Monday night’s board of supervisors meeting did yield some positive news for the school district. Instead of being $800,000 short of its initial request, MCPS needs about half that to receive its full request.
Because the school system will have higher attendance when the budget is passed than originally projected, changes in the school budget include an estimated. $238,937 from the state
Savings in Internet bandwidth costs of $84,000 and health care costs going down by over $90,000 dollars have also alleviated some of the school system’s financial burdens. With the change in numbers, the shortfall is down to just over $400,000.
Of course, the relief is contingent on the supervisors approving Meadows’ proposal of $1.5 million in additional revenue to the schools.
“We sure would appreciate it if his recommendation is approved,” Miear said.
Meadows proposed that the schools receive over $600,000 in carryover funds for the current fiscal year, which would become available when FY 2019 begins July 1 and would actually give the schools more than it requested.
Also kept in the $2.3 million request is keeping health insurance costs the same, technology costs and maintaining a program that provides many students with Chromebooks.
The addition of the hotspot program being maintained was added at the supervisors’ request. That program has a recurring cost of approximately $50,000, but is important since many students throughout the county do not have adequate Internet service, making online-based curriculum hard or impossible to complete at home.
School officials expect the carryover funding to cover the cost of two new buses as well as technology infrastructure.
The school’s overall budget is $109.5 million, while the county currently has an overall budget of $189 million.
Sheriff Hank Partin spoke about his department’s budget during public address at Monday’s meeting. He proposed a one-cent real estate tax increase to cover the cost of adding resource officers to every school in the county.
Currently all of the high schools and middle schools have them, but resource officers only split time between eight of the 11 elementary schools in the county, with only three having fulltime officers.
Partin said that the Blacksburg and Christiansburg police departments take care of their respected localities, but he would like to see more coverage at the county schools where there are only four resource officers for an area that has schools spread all over it.
Tuesday night, the school board said they would be receptive to having the officers in each of the school, as long as the funding did not come out of the MCPS budget.
The current rate is $0.89 per $100 of assessed value, or simply put, $890 for a $100,000 home. Each cent equals approximately $775,000 in revenue for the county.
Once the board votes on an advertised tax rate, it must be published in local papers. The amount can be reduced later, but not increased once it is advertised.
A public hearing on the proposed rate and budget is scheduled for April 5 and will be adopted at the April 16 meeting.
Monday’s meeting begins at 7:15 at the Montgomery County Government Center (755 Roanoke St., Christiansburg).