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Orange looking at raises
Orange Superintendent presents proposed schools budget

Date published: 2/4/2013

BY DAN McFARLAND

Superintendent Bob Grimesey says the most urgent need in next year's Orange County schools budget is to match Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposed 2 percent salary increase for instructional positions.

But Grimesey adds that more needs to be done.

The proposed fiscal year 2013-14 budget Grimesey presented to School Board members last week calls for a total projected net increase of $890,737 over last year's school spending.

Proposed increases actually total more than $1.66 million, but are partially offset by decreases of some $773,000 from this year's budget.

The new operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would total a little more than $46 million, an almost 2 percent increase over this fiscal year.

The bulk of the increase is $600,000 needed to raise salaries for all employees by 2 percent. The governor's proposal to increase pay for Standards of Quality-funded instructional positions by 2 percent would result in an increase in Orange County's state funding of approximately $243,000.

But that amount would not cover the entire pay raise; Orange County would still need to contribute some $350,000.

School Board members said they anticipate questions from the county supervisors over the pay increase because it is expected that there will be no pay raise for other county employees. If the county elects not to go through with the governor's proposal, however, it would forfeit those state funds--which School Board member Jim Hopkins characterized as "just throwing away that money."

Grimesey pointed out that "without that money, you will experience a net reduction in state funding."

Other cost increases in the proposed new budget include $313,000 in higher employee health and dental insurance premiums and $250,000 in one-time expenses to transfer grades 3-5 back to the now-shuttered future Locust Grove Elementary School.

The alternative to reopening that school, board Chairwoman Judy Carter said, could be adding trailers at the new Locust Grove Middle School or moving fifth-grade students up to the second-floor middle school area.

"We made clear to people that we would not be integrating those two groups together, and that is something we will have to do if we are not able to move," she said.

Carter also noted that, although the school system's total enrollment numbers are down, "that decrease is not happening at the eastern end of the county." The Locust Grove schools include students from that area.

In summarizing his context for the budget proposal, Grimesey said, "We stopped tearing down school funding in 2012. When can we start exceeding minimum standards?"

He added that schools now face many more federal and state requirements than they did in the 1960s and '70s.

"It would sure be nice if, just once, the federal or state government, instead of just piling on more expectations, would have the wherewithal to see that all these demands cost something, and the last nickels and dimes have been squeezed out of these budgets," he said.

Dan McFarland:
Email: dmcfarland@freelancestar.com