DATE: November 20, 2018
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
Albemarle County Public Schools Receives More Than 4,500 Community Responses Identifying Budget Priorities for the 2019-20 School Year
(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – For the second straight year, attracting and retaining high-quality teachers is the top goal for those Albemarle County residents who responded to the school division’s annual budget survey. The online survey attracted more than 4,500 responses to a question about the most important objectives for the 2019-20 school year budget. Eight out of ten responses said paying competitive teacher salaries should be one of the division’s top priorities.
Nearly 53 percent of responses said increasing student health and wellness services should be a priority, followed by 49 percent that identified paying competitive salaries to attract and retain high-quality support staff. Also near the top of the list was 48 percent of responses that said the physical safety and security of students and staff in school buildings was a priority and 47 percent who called for increasing career and workforce readiness opportunities, such as internships, for high school students.
Among survey participants, 46 percent were parents and another nine percent identified themselves as both a parent and an employee. Employees constituted 27 percent of the sample, and another 17 percent were either community members or students.
Paying competitive teacher salaries has been a recurring topic at School Board meetings, leading last year to a simplification of the teacher salary scale that resulted in salary increases for most teachers beyond the recommended two percent. This year’s school budget also added $160,000 to expand student mental health and counseling support services.
Superintendent Dr. Matthew Haas said the survey results will be valuable as he develops his funding request for the next school year, which he will present to the School Board on January 17, 2019. The Board is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the Superintendent’s Funding Request on January 29, moving to a series of work sessions and adoption of their budget request to the Board of Supervisors by February 7.
“This survey contains among the most important information we receive from our learning community each year,” Dr. Haas said. “Their opinion a year ago on teacher salaries directly led to our initiative to improve teacher compensation. We take very seriously the input we receive from our on-the-ground experts—the students, parents, employees, and community partners who depend upon the support and services we deliver to them,” Dr. Haas added.
Between now and January 17, the school division will receive updates on two important sources of revenue for next year. In mid-December, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is expected to release his proposed budget for the state’s next fiscal year, which begins on July 1. State revenues to local school divisions recently have begun to reverse several years of declining state support. State revenues now fund approximately 25 percent of the school division’s operating budget. Prior to the recession ten years ago, that percentage exceeded 30.
Also, in January, Albemarle County is expected to release updated projections of property tax revenues. About 57 percent of local tax dollars support the school division’s operational and capital needs as well as debt service for bonds.
There is some good news in the early budget forecast. Health care costs, which in recent years have approached double-digit increases, are projected to rise only about 2.7 percent next year.
The 4,500 responses to the survey question about budget priorities were submitted by 1,009 participants, since each respondent was able to identify five budget priorities. There also were nearly 1,400 comments expanding upon the identification of budget priorities and another 500 comments on the budget process in general. The school division is analyzing all of these comments and cataloguing them by budget priority category. Budget survey results will be posted online by January.