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While the local school district’s new budget isn’t exactly what the Warren County School Board was originally looking for, they voted 5-0 on Wednesday, June 29 to approve it so that Warren County Public Schools Warren (WCPS) can continue to operate without interruption.

During the special school board meeting, School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins unanimously adopted WCPS’ budget for the fiscal year. 2022-2023, which totals approximately $69 million and includes approximately $53.2. million dollars for its operating fund, nearly $12.4 million for capital improvements and nearly $3.4 million for the cafeteria fund.

The new operating budget is lower than what the school district originally passed and then sought approval from the Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS), as the BOS voted unanimously on Tuesday, June 28 to fund Temporarily WCPS operations at 75% due to tax concerns. So while WCPS had requested nearly $71 million for its FY23 school operating fund—bringing its total FY23 budget request to nearly $92 million—the school division has so far agreed to adopt the total budget of $69,007,344 for the upcoming school year.

WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger at the June 29 special school board meeting.

That amount, WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger said, is enough to allow the district to continue operations beginning July 1. “If we didn’t have a budget of course on Friday we couldn’t open our doors,” he told the school. Plank. “It at least keeps our doors open.”

As part of the FY23 budget, WCPS employees will receive a 5% salary increase, including an experience step, as well as $1,000 bonuses provided by the State of Virginia. WCPS Chief Financial Officer Robert Ballentine said employees can expect to receive these bonuses by the end of the year.

State bonuses will be in addition to pandemic-related bonuses for WCPS employees. Full-time employees who worked during the 2021-2022 school year — and who return for the upcoming school year — will receive a net bonus of $1,500; this includes recent retirees. Part-time WCPS employees during the 2021-2022 school year will receive $750, while employees hired after December 31, 2021 will be eligible for half the full-time and part-time bonuses.

After some back and forth over the past month between boards, BOS agreed on Tuesday to allow WCPS to transfer $125,000 between school board budget categories to help cover its one-time employee bonuses, which are expected to total approximately 1.7 million dollars and are in the majority. funded by funds remaining from vacancies from the last school year, mid-year turnover, new employees entering on a lower pay scale, etc.

The approved FY23 WCPS operating fund also covers funding for 15.5 new positions, grounds maintenance, student transportation and technology, among other things, according to the supervisor’s budget document.

The school board and BOS plan to continue working together to finalize WCPS’ FY23 budget. Both Pence and Ballenger told the Royal Examiner earlier this week that they remain hopeful of improved communication between their councils.

“I am pleased that we now have the opportunity to talk about this budget in more detail and discuss its impact on the school system so that an informed decision can be made regarding the division’s FY23 budget,” Ballenger wrote. in an email.

“I look forward to the conversations ahead of us between the school board budget subcommittee and the board of supervisors,” Pence wrote.

At the special school board meeting on Wednesday, Funk said members of the board’s budget committee were discussing the budget and options presented at the BOS meeting on Tuesday and hoped to meet with members of the BOS budget subcommittee next week. .

Lo said members of the school board’s budget committee also discussed how to establish better communication between themselves and members of the BOS budget subcommittee “to ensure that our goals are aligned with the goals of the supervisors so that we work together”.

Rinaldi said there should be a timeline developed and adopted to settle the FY23 budget. “I think it’s important to start our plan for the fall,” he added.

Other action
The school board unanimously agreed to ask BOS to increase the WCPS technology category in the FY22 budget operating fund by $140,476. WCPS received a grant from the Federal Communications Commission ( FCC) to install Wi-Fi connectivity on its school buses. To spend the grant money, an additional credit must be received by the BOS. Ballenger said the grant money is for the installation of a Wi-Fi radio system to enable direct communications between buses and schools. “We are getting closer to having [this system] fully implemented for this year,” he added.

Going back, Pence said, the school board at an earlier meeting had voted to approve the purchase and use and to date had not made that additional appropriation.

For this type of grant, WCPS Chief Financial Officer Ballentine explained that WCPS must first spend the money before getting the federal reimbursement, “which is currently in the works,” he said.

Because of that, the county has already advanced, so to speak, the money to pay for it. So that request would essentially be to reimburse the county for local funds that were advanced to pay for the system, and then WCPS will be reimbursed with federal funds, Ballentine said.

In a proactive move, school board members asked Ballentine if they should change the way they make these requests to the BOS. For example, when notified of receiving a grant, should the school board then go to the BOS and explain that the grant is coming, what will be done with the funds, and at that time request a credit increase of that specific amount. The school board would then be able to issue a contract and accept the grant.

“The way I see it, that would be, in an ideal world, the best way to handle this,” Ballentine said. “It’s asking for permission rather than forgiveness.”

Following a motion from Rinaldi asking the BOS to increase the 68,000 Technology category of the school board’s operating budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year by $140,476, with a second from Funk, the board voted 5 -0 to approve.

Additionally, WCPS Director of Staff Shane Goodwin (above) presented the 2022 staff report to the school board on Wednesday for approval.

Goodwin also updated the school board on the number of vacancies facing WCPS for the upcoming school year. As of June 29, WCPS must fill a total of 39 positions: 29 teachers, eight teaching assistants, and two central office positions (new director of communications and community engagement and an assistant superintendent for instruction).

“We have all worked hard to ensure that we find the best candidates for our students in our classrooms and at each of our facilities,” Goodwin said.

Prior to the vote on the staff report, school board member Salins asked if board members could be present at exit interviews for outgoing WCPS staff. Goodwin said he would like to ask Dr.
Ballenger to work with the band “and we’ll find a way to present that in a format that you would like.”

Salins asked again: “Is there a way for us to take into account the advice of the [Warren County] The supervisory board gave us [during its June 28 meeting] and actually doing physical interviews with departing staff in hopes that we can stop them from leaving and just sort out any issues they might have? »

“The practice that’s in place now goes back quite some time,” Goodwin replied. “I’m sure we have the flexibility to adjust this as you see fit or as needed.

“Of course, I would love to have the opportunity for us to retain people because we wouldn’t have to recruit,” Goodwin said. “We would be happy to look into this as long as it falls within our policy which you have all approved. If necessary, we could create a new one. We would be happy to do this together.

Following a motion from Funk with a second from Salins, the school board voted 5-0 to approve the 2022 staff report, which included four resignations, one retirement and 12 appointments.

To watch the meeting in its entirety, go to: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/176504


Joan J. Dean

The author Joan J. Dean