IW school board discusses teacher salaries, loan request

Published 11:59 am Friday, March 3, 2017

Isle of Wight County’s school board met with Supt. Dr. Jim Thornton and members of the division’s finance staff to discuss the division’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-2018 during a work session, which held on Thursday morning in the IWCS central office.

The proposed operating budget anticipates that the division’s total revenues for the upcoming school year will likely be approximately $59.8 million and that its total expenditures equalling its total revenue exactly. Of the $59.8 million in revenue, the division is predicting to receive $29.5 million in funding from the commonwealth, approximately $3.8 million from the federal government, approximately $25.1 million from Isle of Wight County and $1.2 million from fees and other sources.

The division’s breakdown of expenditures specifies approximately $43.8 million for instructional services; $2.3 million for administration, attendance and health; $3.6 million for pupil transportation; $5 million for operations and maintenance; $2.3 million for technology; $2.1 million for child nutrition services and $435,944 for debt services to Ameresco, an energy management company that helps the division reduce energy costs, the savings from which funds their annual fee.

Per comments made during Isle of Wight County Schools’ public hearing on Feb. 22, the division investigated the possibility of giving teachers raises. According to Thornton, the division’s salaries for both new and experienced teachers are fairly competitive, with first-year teachers receiving $40,500 over a 10-month period and teachers with 30 or more years of experience receiving $66,520.

The division’s pay scale is based on steps, which is defined as the total number of years someone has been teaching regardless of how long he or she has been with the division. Should the division’s budget be approved, teachers returning for the 2017-2018 fiscal year could see salary increases from 2 to 7.2 percent over the previous fiscal year, depending on which step they will be entering.

The school board also discussed how the division’s decision to no longer charge students to participate in field trips or athletics would affect next year’s budget, which is expected to decrease the division’s anticipated revenue by approximately $65,000. Thornton said that to make up for the loss in revenue, the division may have to cut some trips that do not align well with the division’s educational goals, and factor the remaining trips into the budget for the year.

Thornton also presented the board with a more detailed estimate of the costs for the division’s proposed expansion of Smithfield and Windsor high schools, saying that the latest estimates predict the total cost to renovate Smithfield would be $6,777,378, and the total cost for Windsor would be $3,416,783.

If the division were to eliminate all the proposed amenities save for the career and technical education facilities, the total cost for both high schools would only be $7,661,265.

Anticipating an interest rate of around 3.75 percent, the division would have approximately $750,000 deducted annually over a 20-year period from the funds the county gives them and complete all the proposed renovations. Or they would have $547,000 deducted annually and only complete the career and technical education renovations.

Thornton added that while he has heard some criticism over the division’s plans to purchase new furniture for its high schools’ cafeterias and media centers, he did not feel that those facilities were non-essential.

“The media center at Windsor is over 20 years old; Smithfield’s was designed over 40 years ago,” he said. “If we don’t take advantage of money we have on hand, when do you replace them, in another 20 to 40 years? What is wrong with our kids having nice furniture when they’re eating? Why do we want our kids in a substandard environment when we have the money to pay for it?”

The board attended a joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors Thursday evening to further make their case for the requested debt service.