IW schools propose $78.2M budget

Published 7:08 pm Friday, February 18, 2022

Isle of Wight County Schools is proposing a budget of $78.2 million for the 2022-23 school year.

The proposed budget reflects a roughly 3.16% increase over the school system’s current $75.8 million budget.

The School Board approved a budget of $69.3 million last May, but has since received roughly $7 million in additional federal funds tied to COVID-19 relief, resulting in the current total.

According to Steve Kepnes, the school system’s executive director of budget and finance, the $7 million in pandemic aid won’t be a recurring source of revenue — save for the $2.5 million in unspent American Rescue Plan Act funds Isle of Wight plans to carry over to its 2022-23 budget. As such, the school system has budgeted for an overall decrease of $4.4 million in pandemic aid.

The school system is, however, expecting a $7.2 million increase in state funding based on an estimated 5,568 students and a provision in Virginia’s proposed budget that would give teachers an annual 5% raise, for a cumulative 10.25% increase over the 2022-2024 biennium. Isle of Wight’s student population stood at 5,516 as of fall 2021.

The $7.3 million would also include a $2.8 million one-time state construction grant the school system could put toward the replacement Hardy Elementary School, but “the majority of that money is tied up in the 5% (raises),” said Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton.

The school system plans to ask Isle of Wight County to contribute $26.68 million toward its proposed 2022-23 budget — a 0.1% decrease from the $26.71 million Isle of Wight contributed at the start of the current school year.

According to Kepnes, Isle of Wight is one of 45 Virginia school systems whose funding locality exceeded its state-required local match by 25% to 75%. In Isle of Wight’s case, the county contributes 74.43% over the bare minimum required. A local match, he explained, is a calculation performed by the state, which takes into account a locality’s property value, the income of its residents and taxable retail sales as compared to statewide figures. Over the past six school years, Isle of Wight’s contribution to its school system has risen an average of 2.88%, according to Kepnes’ data.

The proposed budget calls for the hiring of administrative associates at Smithfield High School and Carrollton, Windsor and Hardy elementary schools — placing one in each school’s main office. It further calls for the hiring of two guidance counselors — one at Windsor Elementary and one who would divide his or her time between Carrollton and Hardy — and one special education teacher at Georgie D. Tyler Middle School. There’s also funding allocated for eight clinic assistants who would assist school nurses.

At the division level, the budget calls for an additional clerical position in the school system’s transportation department and an assistant superintendent. The former would carry a cost of $54,039 including salary and benefits; the latter, $174,258. The cost of the latter would be divided into three separate $58,086 line items, one in the administration category, one in finance and the third in operations.

The school system is also expecting an increase in the rate it pays to provide health insurance to its employees. The increase would total just over $350,000, bringing the total health insurance line item to $4.5 million.

“We do believe doctors’ rates are going up, so we have to plan for that,” Kepnes said.

The School Board has scheduled a Feb. 24 public hearing on the proposed budget, and plans to vote on a final budget by April.