School Board Seeks Big Increase

By John Green, Bealeton

Teachers enjoy a good compensation package, especially compared with private industry. A quick look at teacher’s pay raises since 2000 is informative. Between FY 2000-2001 and 2014 Fauquier County school teachers received 11 pay raises in 14 years. One year they received a 3% bonus or $1500, whichever was greater. When the General Assembly required teachers to pay 5% into their retirement plan they were given a 5% pay raise to offset the contribution and another 2% raise on top of that.

We all are experiencing ever increasing costs for medical insurance. In the last budget teachers only had to pick up 16% of the increase. Are you getting that kind of offset for medical insurance in your job?

This budget cycle includes still another item going back to FHS renovation. The Agreement took $1.7M that was set aside for a new elementary school (ES-12). This money was applied to the FHS renovation project. Now it must be replaced and shows up in the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) for $2.0M.

There was no denying FHS needed renovation. But the School’s plan centered about building a 4 story classroom building to LEED Gold standards. The focus was on the classroom building and its award winning design. The rest of the school complex was short changed and now these items must be accomplished year by year and only by funds remaining at year end, funds for asset replacement and the comprehensive maintenance fund.

At the joint School Board/Supervisors meeting held on March 10, 2011 the School Board’s original $60M plan went out the window when Chairman Ray Graham said only $25M was available for the FHS renovation. He then asked if the School could do the renovation for that amount? After a brief discussion the School said yes.

This brings us to today’s School Board budget request. They dug a financial hole for the school system by insisting on the award winning gold standard building. But we also have today’s problems.

We must start repaying VRS. Do we need to set aside money for ES-12? The School and Supervisors appear to have different views on student population growth. The School wanted to tear down the old FHS classroom building. The Supervisors felt student growth justified keeping 1/3 of the old building (costing us another $2M).

And finally what about teachers pay? They have had 12 pay raises in the last 14 years. Much of the cost increases for benefits have been borne by the School Division. A pay raise can wait.

I believe our schools could use some additional funds but not what they are asking for. The School Board stripped the system of funds to get their special building. It will take time to get back in balance.

Mr. Green would like to add this disclaimer:

The Fauquier County Attorney has requested I state I am a volunteer member of the County Transportation Committee and that this letter consists of my thoughts only. This is to comply with the County Code of Ethics.



One Response to School Board Seeks Big Increase

  1. Madge Eicher Reply

    March 12, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Our County school system is trying to recover from years of wasteful spending under Superintendent Jonathan Lewis. His complex budgets and maneuvering of renovations for Fauquier High School are an example. Many things were done at a more expensive way (the award winning building design to LEED Gold standard) and very important things were left undone). The delay of payment into the Virginia Retirement System is now due too. The School Board Members of that time must share the blame also.
    As is usual, the tearful call now for more money for the school system because we don’t have funds to give the teachers a salary increase. If money had not been wasted, we could give teachers a raise w/o raising the tax rate. I hope the teachers will see why. Madge Eicher

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