Budget Process for the 13-14 School Year
The budget process for Grayson County Public Schools begins in December with an assessment of the division’s needs and priorities. This presentation lines up with the Governor’s budget proposal for education that is released the third week of December. The Governor’s budget proposal will be taken up by the Virginia legislature beginning in January. This space will provide the residents of Grayson County with a preview of the budget process with updates each month as more information becomes available.
As superintendent, I presented the school board with the first look at our needs and priorities at the December boardmeeting. Each school and department provided a list of their needs, and, as an administration, we prioritized that list. I attended staff meetings at each school to gather input from the staff and share with them the process of forming our budget. Additional meetings will be held with other employees and the public as we move farther into the process.
Funding of the Standards of Quality (SOQ) is based on a formula set by legislation that is shared by the state and the local county government. Currently, the state of Virginia provides 71% of the total operational funding, while Grayson County provides 29%, which is called the Required Local Effort (RLE). The county, in addition, pays for the bond issues for the one new and one renovated school in the division. Most counties in Virginia provide additional funds beyond the RLE to insure a quality education for their residents.
The amount of money a division receives from the state is based on the Average Daily Membership (ADM). Over the past decade the number of students attending Grayson County Schools has declined. We have lost on average 50 students per year for the past 6 years. This year, however, that decline has stabilized, and we have leveled off at 1800 students that are funded by the state under the ADM formula. This will provide additional money that was not expected for this school year as well as the 13-14 school year. This amount will help to offset other expenses and cuts from the federal and state government.
Our goal is to provide the highest quality of education for the students of Grayson County. We do that by focusing on:
- Student Achievement with continuous improvement.
- High quality of instruction with continuousimprovement.
Our task throughout this budget process is to match up our goals & priorities with the funds available. We have to make sure that the dollars we do have go towards educating the total child in the 21st Century. Research has shown that the number one effect on student achievement is the classroom teacher. Our salary schedule must allow us to 1) recruit talented teachers and 2) retain and suppor thighly qualified teachers. Research also shows that the number two impact on student achievement is the building principal. We are fortunate to have some excellent teachers and principals who dedicate their lives to providing the best education possible. However, each year we lose some of our best teachers to surrounding districts and struggle to recruit highly talented candidates. If they do choose our division over other divisions, it is not because of the pay or facilities; it is because they choose to live in Grayson County, and they are willing to forgo the additional salary.
With our need to be able to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers (especially in hard to fill subjects), and the fact that staff salary steps have been frozen for the past 4 years, I am looking at using the additional money from the state to make staff salaries a main priority for next year’s budget. If we can unfreeze staff pay schedules, it will go a long way in enhancing the morale, reputation, and in the long term, the quality of education at Grayson County Public Schools. Our teachers have done a tremendous job of improving Standard of Learning (SOL) state assessment scores over the past few years. Those teachers deserve our thanks and our support as we continue to recruit the best and brightest for our students.
A second area of need is continuous improvement in the technology department. Grayson County has made several improvements over the years in technology, but because of our location and lack of funds, we continue to play catch-up with suburban and city areas. Fortunately, with fiber optics coming to Grayson County, we are able to offer more advanced and faster internet service. Our next challenge is to provide our students with wireless access in each of our schools. This will enable teachers and students to use laptops, iPads, eReaders, and other devices wirelessly. More and more education is moving to the use of wireless devices for instruction in all subject matters. We cannot build the infrastructure and provide the laptops overnight, but we do need to plan for the future and begin to build the infrastructure that will enable us to give our students the same technological advantages as students in other divisions. As we educate ourstudents for the 21st Century, we are not preparing them for a specific or limited profession. We are preparing them for jobs that do not exist yet, but may be their chosen profession by the time they graduate from high school or college. We are living in a global society with international competition. Our students deserve the chance to compete in that world, and we have an obligation to prepare and inspire them to reach their full potential.
These two priorities need to be balanced with a number of other division needs. These needs include transportation and facilities. We have not purchased a bus in 2 years and many of our buses need to be replaced along with other vehicles the division relies on. Some of our facilities are in need of repair including, the HS athletic field, classrooms, restrooms, two boilers, and several exterior doors. Because many of our buildings are old, they require more maintenance and repairs. An updated electrical grid is needed to handle the modern equipment, including air conditioning, computers, and more student access to plug in their own electronic devices.
We will be evaluating different educational programs, some to enhance and upgrade and others to consolidate and scale back. Our students are very active in a variety of activities and athletics. This is very healthy and the school would like to continue to provide these programs- both during school hours and after hours, but it must be secondary to teaching and learning in the academic subjects.Things like the late activity routes, field trips, and clubs will continue to be evaluated.
Finally, in light of the recent school shooting in Newtown, CT, school safety and security must be addressed here in Grayson County. There is no simple answer to school safety ;and when discussed in the light of a tight budget, it becomes even more difficult to know where to put the resources for the best effect. Some may suggest more resource officers in the schools, while others say a secure door or more cameras will have better results. While each approach has its advantages, this will have to be a discussion between parents, board members and the administration to come up with the best solution for Grayson County. At this time there is no additional money coming from the federal or state government, so we would have to find it in our own strapped budgets. We currently have three resource officers who rotate between eight schools. Our staff practices lockdown drills and follow procedures to keep unknown visitors out of our schools and our kids safe. Schools are still the safest place for a child to be.
We invite the parents and residents of Grayson County to be a part of the ongoing discussion as we plan a budget for the 13-14 school year. The first public hearing with the school board will be on February 11that 6:30 PM in the courthouse board room.