Linda Burchette | Smyth County News and Messenger
Smyth County Schools is considering an increase of approximately $5.5 million in next year’s budget from a proposed $54,455,787 to a proposed $59,940,121.
Of course, the proposed FY23 budget will undoubtedly change once the state budget is passed. When that will happen stay up in the air.
Superintendent Dennis Carter and the Smyth County School Board are eagerly awaiting a state budget that will tell them how much money schools will receive from the state next year. But because the county needs a draft school budget to include in its 2022-23 budget, a draft had to be approved. Localities must have their budgets in place by July 1.
On Monday, the school board approved the state budget proposed by the Virginia House of Delegates, which would provide Smyth County schools with about $39,492,795, the lowest amount of the three proposed state budgets – the governor $42,810,407 and the Senate $43,650,289.
Carter said the council could accept the lesser amount to provide and hope for more in order to prepare a plan for the county.
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“We don’t have a state budget yet, so we’re heading into the approval process knowing that we’ll probably have to go back and adjust,” he said.
Additional revenue estimates are $9,239,797 local, $6,144,533 federal, $5,135,955 state sales tax, and $2,737,929 other.
On Thursday evening, Carter presented the budget proposal to the Smyth County Board of Supervisors, noting the complexity of the year and that at this point the school system remains unfunded by the state.
He called education “the county’s biggest investment in economic development.”
Supervisors have acknowledged that the final budget will likely change. They have set a public hearing on the school systems budget for Thursday, May 12, at or shortly after 5 p.m.
The school board’s proposed budget for FY23 is based on an estimated 3,845 students, up from 3,857 this year.
The loss of students has a direct impact on the operating funds of the school system.
While schools are funded by local, state and federal dollars, the state is responsible for the largest percentage – just over 68% of the proposed system budget of nearly $60 million for the coming year. . The state allocates funds to school systems using a formula that focuses on average daily enrollment.
Over the past two decades, the county’s school system has experienced a steady loss of students. When students returned to class last year following a drop in local COVID-19 numbers, some stayed in the virtual academy set up for those in the area whose parents wanted them not to return to school. in-person instruction.
Since the 2002-2003 school year, Smyth County has only seen an increase in student enrollment three times. Other years have seen enrollment losses ranging from 20 students to 125.
In 2002-2003, the average daily enrollment in the school system was 5,033 students. The first year of the pandemic (2020-21) was the first time the numbers fell below 4,000.
The school system has 671 full-time and 40 part-time employees, 202 teachers and administrators with master’s degrees, and 464 participants in the Local Choice insurance program.
Next year’s budget includes an improvement to the pay scale for teachers with an increase to $12 per hour minimum wage effective July 1 to address the need for improved salaries for bus drivers, guards and nurses and a 5% increase for all other scales.
The teacher salary scale has 28 steps with proposed salary levels for the coming year ranging from $38,500 (bachelor’s) and $41,219 (master’s) for zero years of experience to $64,500 (bachelor’s) and $67,219 (master’s) with 28 years of experience. Another remuneration is set for teachers on 200-day contracts with different levels of education and training.
The salary range for administrators also has 28 steps (years) with four levels of experience, including level 1 (secondary school principals) with zero years of experience at $76,015 to 28 years of experience at $104,552 $. The stipends for a 260-day contract are set at $750 for the middle school vice principal and $1,500 for the high school vice principal.
Bus drivers would earn from $17.91 per hour for zero years of experience to $24.77 for 27 or more years of experience. The school system always needs bus drivers.
The age of the bus fleet ranges from 2000 to 2023 with 56 buses (most with two daily routes), 3,201 miles traveled each day carrying around 2,030 students each day.
All students will once again be served free breakfast and lunch as part of the Community Eligibility Program. The schools operate 12 cafeterias serving approximately 1,521 breakfasts and 2,273 lunches per day.
The ages of the 14 schools in the system range from Marion Middle School built in 1937 and renovated in 2000 to Oak Point Elementary built in 2012-13. Most were built in the 1950s and 1960s with renovations in later decades, except Sugar Grove Elementary built in 1938 and renovated in 1951. Marion Senior High was built in 1960, Rich Valley Elementary in 1962 and Smyth Career and Technical Center in 1969 and neither has been renovated.
Stephanie Porter-Nichols contributed to this story.