Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick unveiled a $712 million operating budget for fiscal year 2008 at last week’s School Board meeting at the Administration Building in Ashburn.
When Hatrick created the budget, he said he took six points into consideration: student enrollment growth, opening four schools, maintaining competitive employee compensation, a 15 percent anticipated group health insurance rate increase, market adjustments for gasoline prices and other materials, and continuing instructional programs.
This year, the student population grew to more than 50,000 students. Student enrollment is projected to increase by 3,000 students during the 2007-2008 school year.
The school system will open three new elementary schools, Arcola, Sycolin Creek and Rosa Lee Carter and a new Stone Hill Middle School in the Ashburn area.
With more students coming into the school system, Hatrick said he had to increase the budget to compensate for them, as well as an increase in utilities costs. More busses means more fuel and more students means more supplies.
"All of this has an impact on the budget," he said.
SAM ADAMO, director of Planning and Legislative Services, said enrollment increases and the opening of the new schools will account for approximately 606 new positions next year. This includes 331 additional teachers, 87 teacher assistants, 45 bus drivers and attendants and about 16 school administrators.
"We are already out there recruiting next year’s teachers," Hatrick said.
In order to recruit the best of the best, the superintendent proposed increasing teacher’s salaries by 6.3 percent. That includes a 3.5 percent cost of living adjustment.
Hatrick proposed a $43,500 starting salary for next year. In order to attract teachers from around the country, and the globe, Hatrick said the school system has to offer more to beginning teachers.
He also proposed increasing the stipend for National Board Certification from $1,500 to $7,500, to encourage teachers to further their education in additional areas.
"It helps create master teachers," Hatrick said. "Status is given for a degree and status is given for years of teaching."
IN SEPTEMBER 2005, the School Board adopted several goals it hoped to achieve during its time in office, including improving student curriculum development, to reduce class size and increase compensation, recruitment and retention rate of staff.
School Board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) wanted to know why the superintendent did not reserve money to reduce class size.
Ohneiser suggested the school system extend the high- school day from six periods to eight periods a day, to spread students out between classes.
"The short answer is space," Hatrick said.
THE SCHOOL BOARD will hold a work session on the proposed operating budget, Thursday, Dec. 7, and a public hearing, Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., at the Administration Building in Ashburn.
"I am shocked at the numbers, but I will hold my comments," School Board member Priscilla Godfrey (Blue Ridge) said on Tuesday night.
Joseph Guzman (Sugarland) was concerned about the grand total, as well. While he said he is an advocate for the school system, he does not think the Board of Supervisors will approve the operating budget as is.
"We have to be responsible," he said. "We’re going to have to make sizable cuts or we will have a hard time reconciling [with the Board of Supervisors] in the Spring."
In addition to the proposed budget, Hatrick, on Nov. 14, recommended a fiscal year 2008-12 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) that totaled $969,585,000 — $916 million for construction and $53 million for land — over the next five years.