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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

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School board prioritizes spending

Monday, January 6, 2014

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

The Franklin County School Board is prioritizing a $5.8 million list of funding issues for the 2014-15 school budget.

Top priorities include $355,000 for two pre-K teachers, two teacher assistants and an alternative education center that board members hope will help raise Franklin County's faltering on-time graduation rate.

Assistant Superintendent Sue Rogers explained that the alternative education center would have to be modified at first and would not operate at full scale for a while.

"It (the center) will take some time to fully develop," she said.

Members of the board also discussed $2.2 million in possible pay raises for teachers, teacher assistants and practical nurses.

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.

"As long as we continue to hire people with the premise that they are being hired on a step pay scale, we need to honor that," said Sarah Alexander, chair of the school board.

Other priorities on the list include two elementary guidance counselors, three social workers and an autism behavior analyst at a cost of $358,000.

"Elementary guidance counselors and social workers are a huge priority," said Julie Nix (Blue Ridge). "They are desperately needed, and they are the ones who identify our at-risk kids early on."

The board will also request two administrators, one for the high school and one for the middle school ($190,700), to help curb discipline problems and address the need for help in the athletic department.

Board members also expressed the need to prioritize technology in the school division by proposing an expenditure of $140,000 for an email archiving system and planning for focused usage of technology, electronic textbooks and on-line education.

"We need to work on that area (technology) because with virtual education being pushed throughout the state, we need to have our hand in that to be competitive," said G.B. Washburn (Snow Creek).

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.

Two technology resource teachers will also be requested at a cost of $108,000.

Other concerns on the list include $1.1 million to replace 12 school buses.

The total dollar amount of the school system's needs adds up to $6.3 million, but the school system is expecting $1.1 million in additional state revenue.

"We will have to use $494,000 of that state revenue for additional state programs that come along with accepting that funding," said Finance Director Lee Cheatham.

Board members also expressed concern over the rising poverty in the county and how it is affecting student performance.

"Our rating on school digger.com dropped from eight to 20 since last year," said Bill Brush (Gills Creek).

Over a span of five years, the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches in Franklin County has risen 23.3 percent, Cheatham said.

 
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