The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
The Franklin County School Board began budget talks for the 2014-15 school year with a $6 million list of "concerns."
At a prebudget public hearing Monday night, school board members discussed a list of items that includes $2 million in possible pay raises.
The board is considering a 3 percent, one-step pay increase for school employees in next year's budget.
Last year, school employees received a 2.5 percent pay hike, their first raise in four years.
The school system also faces more than $1.9 million in rate increases from the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) for employee retirement, group life insurance and retiree health care credits.
The school board's list of budget concerns also includes $200,000 for an alternative education program in hopes of raising Franklin County's faltering on-time graduation rate.
Bill Brush, Gills Creek member, said the cost for educating children ($2,000 to $3,000 per child) is "nothing compared to what society pays if that child doesn't graduate and stays in the county or ends up incarcerated."
"If 15 percent of our kids are not graduating, that's a big problem and becomes a burden on society," he added.
Other concerns on the list include $1.1 million to replace 12 school buses, $70,000 in electronic textbooks and online education, and another $70,000 for an email archiving system.
The school system would also like to replace some of the positions cut last year due to budget restraints ($697,000). Those positions include one behavior analyst, three social workers, two elementary guidance counselors, two pre-K teachers and two pre-K teacher assistants, as well as one administrator each for Franklin County High School and Benjamin Franklin Middle School and two technology resource teachers.
Only a few residents turned out for Monday night's meeting at the middle school, which led board members to discuss ways to engage the public.
"What can we do to get the public engaged in the public hearings?" asked Brush.
P.D. Hambrick, Union Hall member, suggested that the budget's complexity could be hindering the average citizen from coming to the public hearings.
"The budget, no matter how simple we try to make it, has so many caveats, most people in the county don't understand it, or care to," said Hambrick.
Dr. Mark Church, school superintendent, said he believes the public cares, but they trust their elected officials to handle the budget in the proper manner.