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City schools boss says teacher raise is top priority
By EMILY BATTLE
Fredericksburg Schools Superintendent David Melton told School Board members last night that raising teacher salaries will be a priority in next year's budget.
"My first concern is compensation for our staff before we do anything else," Melton said at a budget work session.
He won't release his formal budget proposal until next month, but last night he told board members that schools officials are being asked for more and more letters of recommendation from current employees, indicating that people are looking for work elsewhere as they enter the second half of their third consecutive school year without any kind of salary increase.
Melton plans to ask for a $1.4 million increase in funding from city tax dollars in his budget proposal. That local funding increase would go toward a total of $1.85 million in cost increases in next year's budget. Those are:
$536,000 for a 2.5 percent pay raise for schools employees.
$320,000 to add five teachers.
$360,000 to cover an anticipated 12 percent increase in health insurance costs.
$635,000 to cover increased pension costs.
Five new teachers are needed to handle a projected enrollment growth of about 200 students next year, bringing the total student population to 2,975.
Rental properties in the city have driven enrollment growth rates that for the past two years have been larger than the schools are used to.
Melton said last night that the schools this week got their first call from a future resident of the Haven apartment complex, which is under construction in Celebrate Virginia, asking about enrolling three new students in the city schools.
The Haven's potential cost to the city in new students was a point of debate before City Council approved a rezoning for the apartment complex last year.
School Board Chairwoman Patricia Green said last night that it's clear that rental properties are driving enrollment growth.
"This was one of the things we tried to tell City Council," she said. "If we don't want more students, we don't keep building rental properties, or we increase the money we give to the schools."
Emily Battle: 540/374-5413