At last Thursday evening’s school board meeting, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Matthew Haas, presented a balanced school division funding request of $257.3 million for the 2023-24 school year. The proposal represents a net increase of $10.9 million over the current year’s adopted budget of $246.5 million.
Overall, next year’s budget would include an increase of $14.65 million in revenue from Albemarle County local government. Revenue from the state of Virginia also would improve, by $4.6 million in the new fiscal year that begins on July 1. Nearly three-fourths of the school division’s budget next year will be funded by local revenue, and nearly 28% supported by state revenue.
The school division is projecting that K-12 enrollment will rise by 136 students and reach 13,721. When pre-K students are added, overall enrollment in division schools next August will top 14,000.
Speaking about next year, Haas noted that, “All of our investments will align with our strategic plan, Learning for All, which was developed with community input and approved by our school board in 2021.”
The superintendent pointed to specific new investments in school safety, reading and intervention specialists at all schools, staffing levels that will keep class sizes low, and a 5% increase in employee compensation.
In its strategic plan alignment, the funding request targets its investments to meet the plan’s three objectives: thriving students, affirming and empowering communities, and providing equitable and transformative resources.
The funding request provides nearly $3.9 million in new funding in support of this goal, including $1.2 million that provides for the expected growth in student enrollment; $1.1 million for intensive support services for special education students; $714,538 to support ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students; $566,448 for additional security assistants at each middle and high school; and $126,426 to fund a school resource officer who will be based in the northern feeder pattern, but also will be available to offer assistance to schools in the southern and western feeder patterns. Also, the proposal would add $116,181 for student mental health services, including the hiring of a coordinator of mental health.
In his presentation to the school board, Haas mentioned a key project that will be important to instruction next year: the implementation of changes to instruction that result from an audit now underway by an outside consulting firm. The audit is examining curriculum, classroom practices, and resources around reading at the elementary school level and mathematics in middle school with a goal of closing achievement gaps among various student demographic groups.
Separately, a new program next year will expand student choice and learning opportunities through career learning communities that offer high school students the opportunity to participate in hands-on projects, work as interns and with mentors, and concentrate studies in one of 11 different career learning communities.
Affirming and Empowering Communities
The superintendent proposed $570,036 in new funding to further this objective. Included is $276,161 to help fund full-time positions that will allow employees to divide their time between supporting students during the school day and in the division’s after-school Extended Day Enrichment Programs; $169,358 to fund a new non-profit revenue source, the Albemarle Foundation for Education; $114,517 for a Title IX coordinator; and seed funding of $10,000 for a student voice fund that will support project ideas from students.
Equitable and Transformative Resources
The funding resolution includes a 5% increase in compensation for employees, bringing the total increases employees have received since July 2021 to more than 20%. A total of $9.5 million in new funding would support this increase, which also includes additional teacher step adjustments (compensation based on years of service). Also provided is $1.4 million for continued improvements in the recruitment and availability of substitute teachers, and $1.2 million for changes in differentiated staffing, which will keep class sizes low and add a reading specialist to every school.
Additionally, $248,433 in new funding next year would allow the division to continue the health and safety protections put in place during the pandemic and previously funded by the federal government. This includes the use and maintenance of HEPA filters in every classroom and larger IsoClean units for cafeterias and isolation rooms when children are exhibiting virus symptoms. This funding also will include one additional staff position to ensure maintenance of the filters and units.
Apart from the proposed operating budget, the superintendent also reviewed the division’s capital needs going forward. He noted that, currently, the division employs 77 mobile classrooms in schools and that nearly one half of all students attend schools that are over 95% of their student enrollment capacity. Based upon this need, the division is proposing in its capital budget that two new elementary schools be built over the next five years and major renovation projects to address overcrowding at elementary, middle and high schools.
The school board will conduct a series of work sessions to review and fine tune the funding request, and it will hold a public hearing on the request on March 2. Board members are expected to approve the funding request on March 9 and send it on to the Board of Supervisors. The current budget development schedule calls for the school board to adopt a 2023-24 budget at their meeting on April 27.
The division’s 2023-24 Budget Development web page will continue to be updated throughout the budget development process. The page currently includes key dates in the process, access to our 2023-24 budget survey results, links to the division’s full funding request for the 2023-24 school year, as well as copies of the superintendent’s Draft Funding Request presentation to the school board and the first special budget work session presentation.
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer