The Caroline County School Board is facing a $370,977 budget shortfall for FY19, based on a recent communication from the Caroline County Administrator. On April 17, 2018, the Caroline County Board of Supervisors agreed to an additional $50,000 increase in revenue above the County Administrator’s initial recommendation of $350,000. The proposed $400,000 increase would increase the total county appropriation for school operations to $13,628,641 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
In January 2018, the Caroline County School Board approved a $40,970,994 operating budget which included a request of $1,383,282 in additional revenue from the school division. Included in the CCPS budget was a request of $1,129,115, for salary and associated taxes, to fund the first year of a three-year compensation plan for school division employees. The school division hired a consultant in December 2017 to conduct a compensation study for school division employees. The study determined that of the 57 staff positions included in the study, sixty-three percent were paid below the established market average. Superintendent Parker stated, “Our school division has experienced similar problems as the county government in terms of providing a competitive salary for employees. We have lost ground to other school divisions in our efforts to attract, hire, and retain quality employees.” The Board of Supervisors approved funding for a compensation increase for county employees based on similar study in September 2017.
In addition to improving wages for school division employees, the School Board included a request for additional positions in instruction, custodial, technology and clerical departments. After reviewing the recommended county funding, School Board Chairman George Spaulding stated, “We’re basically between a rock and a hard place. While the $400,000 will be earmarked for employee compensation; we will be left with a shortfall in our budget due to the rising healthcare premiums.”
Superintendent Parker indicated that the school division will face a 13.1% increase in healthcare next year. “The total increase in healthcare premiums will be an estimated $605,000. Even with the school division contributing $300,000 there is still another $305,000 left unmet. Unfortunately, if the county does not provide additional funding for healthcare, we may be forced to make cuts to our operational budget and pass some of the cost of the increase in insurance premiums onto our school division employees.”
Vice Chair, Dr. JoWanda Rollins-Fells shared, “The dynamics of the situation we are facing are counterproductive. It does not make sense to give our staff a raise and then have to turn around and pass on the increase in healthcare. This would result in some of our staff with less take home pay. We should not be balancing our budget on the backs of employees. The alternatives of cutting staff positions or decreasing instructional spending are difficult decisions to justify when the county has a $1.6 million surplus.”
Dr. Parker stated, “We are requesting that the Board of Supervisors revisit their support for school funding prior to passing a budget. Their decisions will have a negative impact on our students and families and the services that they receive from our school division. In addition to unmet needs in instruction, clerical, custodial and technology, we are in the midst of a national and state teacher shortage. Our ability to attract and retain a highly competent workforce will be significantly impacted by the proposed level of funding.”
The County Board of Supervisors will meet May 8, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. at the Community Services Building in Milford, VA to vote on their final FY 2019 budget.