Johnson presents budget

Published 12:17 pm Thursday, April 19, 2018

Supervisors in Prince Edward held a public hearing Tuesday pertaining to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 county and school budget and Calendar Year 2018 tax levies, with Prince Edward County Public Schools (PECPS) Superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson presenting a preliminary budget proposal.

Dr. Barbara Johnson

No one from the public spoke at the hearing.

Board Chairwoman and Farmville 801 District Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones provided a summary of the proposed FY19 county budget, which does not include any tax or fee increases and which level funded most expenses including the schools, as stated in an earlier county press release.

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Most of Tuesday’s meeting addressed the school budget.

After brief opening comments, County Administrator Wade Bartlett gave the floor over to Johnson, who thanked the board for its consistent support of the school system.

She noted that much of the information she provided the board in a proposal packet at the meeting was not new, but there were aspects of it she wanted to highlight.

“There are some things that I would really like to emphasize, and that is that our budget this year is based on three main priorities — our teacher pay scale, we are trying to make sure that our teachers are receiving regionally competitive salaries; our continued development of our STEM program, which we started this year; and our health insurance, because we want to make sure that we continue to provide supports for our families,” she said. “And that, primarily, is what our budget is composed of this year.”

She also noted that the budget she was presenting was based on the governor’s budget.

“The governor’s budget is the most favorable to the schools, so … if in fact we end up with the Senate budget or the House budget or some combination thereof, these numbers change drastically,” she said.

The Prince Edward County Public School Board approved the Preliminary FY 2018-19 Operating Budget, based on the governor’s proposal, at its April 11 board meeting. The proposal packet also noted that the budget is based on a projected Average Daily Membership of 1,950 students.

Reading from the proposal packet, Johnson said that the budget includes $25,499,726 for school operating funds, which reflects an increase in local operational funding of $348,407.

“That is preliminarily what we’re asking for,” she said.

The packet notes that the food service preliminary approved budget is $1,301,000, meaning PECPS is requesting a total budget of $26,800,726.

“And that is the bottom-line request at this point with the preliminary budget,” Johnson said.

She elaborated on one of the budget priorities — health insurance, mentioning that last year the division had a Request for Proposal to determine whether or not it was with the best company. She said the division also did due diligence in checking with another agent to determine whether or not it could go self-insured, and the division began educating staff on different insurance possibilities.

“But at this point in time, we were advised that self-insurance is not an appropriate step for us,” she said. “We have several very, very high claims which then puts our health insurance at a 25 percent increase, which equates to about $450,000.”

Johnson noted that when the school board and board of supervisors first met regarding the budget, PECPS was asking for $614,000 in local operational funding.

“We went back and we tried again to find as many areas that we could change, cut, combine as possible,” she said.

In highlighting the importance of improving the teacher pay scale, Johnson addressed teacher turnover.

The proposal packet cites that from 2006-07 to 2015-16, PECPS teacher turnover has been as high as 41 and as low as 17, but the average is 31.8.

Johnson said that the need to make more money and have cheaper health insurances costs are a driving force for teachers who have five to eight years of experience.

“And those are the teachers we really want,” she said. “We want those teachers who are seasoned but not settled, if that makes sense. So, those are the teachers that have families, and it is very difficult for them with their families to make it with … $38,623 …”

That is the minimum amount offered by PECPS, with income moving to $40,530 after five years, according to the proposal packet.

“The increases are minimal, but it is a beginning so that at least it is not deflating to a teacher who has been teaching for five or six years to come and make the same amount of money that a teacher makes in her first year,” Johnson said.