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The Williamsburg-James City County School Board Tuesday night adopted a 2016-2017 operating budget that improves compensation for all school employees and allows for the hiring of some additional staff.
The $127.6 million operating budget is $726,691 less than the budget proposed by the board in March.
The school division’s operating expenses are covered by the City of Williamsburg and James City County, and while the city was able to fulfill the school division’s entire request, the county could meet only 95.4 percent of its share of the requested amount, forcing the school division to make nearly $400,000 in cuts from the budget it proposed.
The cuts included reducing the number of new special education teacher assistants from four to three, a savings of $40,057; reducing funding for new technology for middle schoolers by $60,000; and cutting travel expenses for the superintendent and school board by $9,000.
The school division also will save $93,681 thanks to a smaller than expected increase in health insurance rates.
It’s anticipated the remaining $327,645 budget gap can be covered through attrition, meaning by not hiring replacements for some employees who resign their positions or retire.
By making these budget cuts, the school division was able to keep its promise to adjust the salary step scale to eliminate compression, implementing a “step” increase for all teachers in Fiscal 2017 while providing a 1.5 percent salary increase for all other staff.
Compression has prevented some teachers from receiving salary increases for periods of two to three years since 2009. The new pay scale implements an average salary increase of 1.5 percent for each year of an employee’s service with the WJCC schools.
Despite the budget cuts, the school division still plans to hire several new employees, including a special education teacher, a technology technician, three bus drivers and two bus assistants.
The school board also adopted a 2016-2017 Capital Improvement Plan that is $5.27 million greater than the plan it approved in December. The city and county committed $1.3 million for building an auxiliary gym at Lafayette High School and the city budgeted $2.2 million to fill a gap in funding for construction of a fourth middle school.
While the $1.3 million committed by the city and county will cover only about half the projected $2.5 million cost of the new Layfayette High gym, WJCC Chief Financial Officer Christina Berta assured that the school division will find the additional funding. “We will make sure that happens so that project can be completed,” she said.
The city and the county also committed to paying for a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Norge Elementary School and to partially fund a roof replacement project at Lafayette High School.