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Charlottesville School Board adopts $106.9m funding request

The Charlottesville School Board has officially signed off on a $106.9 million funding request for the coming fiscal year.

The spending plan, which relies on an additional $878,521 from City Council beyond what is typically allocated to the division via formula, is largely unchanged from what schools Superintendent Royal Gurley Jr. presented to the board last month.

The board unanimously approved the request during a special meeting Thursday.

The bulk of the new spending in the budget goes toward giving employees a 5% raise and to cover cost increases related to health insurance. The raises and other salary actions would cost $3.78 million.

The budget also would reduce the reliance on one-time federal funds from about $4.8 million to $2.1 million in part by cutting $1.4 million in costs. That includes eliminating 15 instructional assistants, but no current employees would lose their job as the reductions would occur via attrition, Gurley has said.

The Charlottesville school division has received $15.7 million in federal stimulus funds since the start of the pandemic, which must be spent by Sept. 30, 2024.

Officials have said this a key year to decrease the division’s dependence on the federal stimulus funds, which supported a range of new expenses in the current operating budget from staff raises to new positions.

The division is expecting to have about $6.8 million left the $15.7 million in federal funds to use for one-time construction projects.

Board chairwoman Lisa Larson-Torres thanked Gurley for his work on the budget — his first as superintendent.

“I know this has not been probably the easiest budget as a first budget to bring forward, but we really do appreciate all of the work and collaboration with your team and what you have brought to us,” she said after the board’s unanimous vote.

The operating budget totals $83,267,031, which is a $3.9 million increase from the current year. Special revenue funds, which include the stimulus money, total $23.6 million.

Under the funding request, the city’s appropriation — $62,925,964 — would make up about 63% of the total budget.

Interim City Manager Michael Rogers will present the city’s budget proposal to the City Council on March 7. City Council will discuss that plan in several work sessions before voting to adopt tax rates and a budget for fiscal year 2023 in April.

No one from the public commented on the spending plan at Thursday’s meeting before the board’s vote.

Kim Powell, chief operations officer for the division, said the funding request is based on former Gov. Ralph Northam’s budget proposal from December. But, initial budget proposals from the lawmakers in Richmond are “generally in line” with his proposal, Powell said.

In addition to the state budget process, Powell said the division is also following legislation that would allow the city to potentially increase the general retail sales tax by up to 1%. Revenue from that increase would go toward school construction projects.

That bill from state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, will be heard in a house finance subcommittee Friday morning. On Thursday, the school system encouraged community members to email Dels. Roxanne Robinson and Chris Runion to rally support for the bill. Runion presents part of Albemarle County.

“Tomorrow morning is a very important subcommittee meeting,” Powell said.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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