School board begins budget consideration this month
ASHLAND -- Although budget planning and preparation is a year-long process for Hanover County Public Schools’ administrators, it’s the beginning of the year when the year’s efforts are presented for consideration by the Hanover County School Board.
In addition to the regular board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 14, two other budget-related sessions are scheduled during the month.
Superintendent Michael Gill will present the division’s FY21 budget proposal at 6 p.m. on Jan. 21 followed by a public hearing planned for Jan. 28.
The superintendent's recommended budget requires board approval, and adjustments to that proposal are considered during that process.
Once the board approves the proposed budget, Gill presents the school board approved document to the Hanover County Board of Supervisors for their consideration and approval.
Last month, two of the county’s professional teachers’ organizations presented their recommendations to the school board, relying on results from member-submitted surveys that prioritized requests.
Hanover Education Association (HEA) president Gene Matthews and Hanover Professional Educators (HPE) president Bill Callahan listed a number of priorities based on results gathered from that survey issued to members of both organizations.
As in past years, salaries and compensation topped the list of concerns for county teachers.
“Overwhelmingly, our HEA and HPE members indicated a need to improve salaries as their overreaching goal,” Matthews told board members at the Dec. 10 meeting.
“Therefore, we ask for a minimum 3% pay raise for all school board employees.”
Teachers also requested relief from continued salary compression issues and requested extra compensation be paid to teachers on the steps in the 10- to 25-year range of the salary scale.
“Both HEA and HPE members indicated that fixing salary compression for experienced teachers and continuing the movement to linear scale should be a priority for the school board,” Matthews said.
Also high on the priority wish list is a request for the system to absorb the rising costs of health insurance and VRS (Virginia Retirement System) retirement.
Matthews acknowledged that neither the school board or board of supervisors can control rising insurance costs, and said the two associations are willing participants in the search for solutions.
“We stand ready to work with Hanover’s governing bodies to educate our members in ways of containing the costs of health insurance,” Matthews said. “We see this as everyone’s responsibility.”
A majority of members listed the need for additional planning time, and requests that stipends be paid when teachers are forced to give up planning time to relieve other teachers.
Both associations requested the restoration of 30-minute lunch periods at all elementary schools, and middle school agricultural vocational agriculture teachers be placed on 10½-month contracts.
The groups also requested a stipend for teachers associated with the Advanced College Academy, and an additional 3% salary increase for teaching assistants.
Callahan said his organization also polled its members employed as bus drivers.
“They listed VRS membership and the right to purchase health insurance at the full time rate as their first and second priorities, but the vote was very close,” Callahan said.
Matthews told board members the survey did not address scheduling for high school teachers, but noted continuing concerns regarding the current schedule blocks.
In the additional comments section of the survey, “a large number of our members asked the board to consider alternatives to the present high school schedule.”
Other work/life balance issues included the increasing number of after-school meetings, standardized test proctoring, and growing amounts of paperwork.
“At least some of these factors can be addressed without impacting the budget,” Matthews said.