By Nancy Lindsey
The Patrick County School Board approved a $30,338,783 school budget for 2016-2017 March 24 that incorporates a salary increase of 2% plus experience step for all school employees.
The school board is requesting a local match of $7,116,967, which includes a debt service increase of $275,625 and $190,000 to lease 12 buses.
The local match (the amount contributed in county funds) for 2015-2016 was $6,602,666. In the 2013, 2014, and 2015 fiscal years the local match was $7,365,000.
The school budget will still have to go to the Patrick County Board of Supervisors for approval and inclusion in the overall county budget.
The board of supervisors is expected to discuss the school budget at a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30 (tonight). The supervisors will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on a proposed real estate tax rate increase from 54.5 cents per $100 assessed value to 57 cents per $100.
The school system is expecting to receive an increase of $409,240 in state funds due to an increase in average daily membership (ADM) in the student population, according to a summary presented by Dr. William Sroufe, division superintendent.
Other proposed budget increases include $5,573 for Virginia Retirement System (VRS) disability lines; $28,000 for bus replacements; $33,170 for a clerical position in the career and technical education (CTE) department at Patrick County High School; $15,000 for heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) improvements; $50,000 for improving electrical facilities; $166,000 for VRS health insurance lines; and $5,000 for athletic programs.
Other budget changes include the following increases: $6,069 for a capital lease payment; $72,990 for instructional allocations; $264,573 for interest payments; $44,983 for principal payments; and $10,000 for the allocation to the PCHS library.
The school budget also includes $20,000 for locker replacements; $31,906 for an additional maintenance employee; $20,000 for paving projects; an increase of $316,941 for technology upgrades; and $23,000 for tools, according to Sroufe’s summary.
The cost of the step plus 2% salary increase is $669,710.
The proposed budget does not include the new teaching positions recommended by Sroufe in an earlier version: three elementary librarians or guidance counselors; and an English teacher, CTE teacher and foreign language teacher at PCHS.
Those positions would cost approximately $300,000, based on an average salary of $50,000 per year.
The departmental budget for technology totals $1,767,252, which includes several increases recommended for the coming fiscal year.
The SmartBoards in the elementary schools are more than 10 years old, Sroufe said in his budget summary.
“They are constantly failing and we are spending around $20,000 per year on projectors and bulbs,” Sroufe said. “Last year we upgraded rooms at the high school with Smart TVs. These are projected to last 15 years with little or no problems.
“There are 130 classrooms at the elementary level that would need to be updated,” Sroufe said. “Cost per room is $4,100 for a total cost of $533,000.”
Sroufe said the school division needs to refresh 60 cart-based iPads at $499 each for a total cost of $179,640; purchase a mobile device management system at a cost of $7,000 per year; update 650 classroom laptops (five to seven years old) at a cost of $500 each for a total of $325,000; rewire older parts of Patrick Springs Primary School to meet current specifications, at a cost of $17,500; and replace 50 printers at $420 each for a total cost of $21,000.
Transportation is another pressing need, Sroufe said, asking for an increase in capital from $100,000 to $170,000 for the 2016-2017 school year to purchase school buses and county vehicles ($70,000).
The transportation department needs to purchase two vans that would be used as trip vans, Sroufe said. Two 2006 Dodge Caravans, with an average of 117,000 miles each, could be used for the special needs department to replace the 2005 Chevrolet Venture and the 2003 Ford Windstar that are currently being used to transport special needs students from Blue Ridge and Meadows of Dan to Patrick Springs Primary School every day, Sroufe said.
One of the vans has 168,000 miles and the other has 182,000 miles. The cost of replacing the vans would be about $45,000, he said.
“We desperately need to replace 13 school buses,” Sroufe said, noting that each bus is 14 years old and has an average of more than 150,000 miles each. One bus has mileage of more than 250,000 miles.
Another problem is that it is extremely difficult—if not impossible—to find replacement parts for the buses, because most have been discontinued, Sroufe said.
The proposed budget would increase instructional allocations across all schools from $36 per student to $66 per student with a $1,000 base.
The PCHS library has requested that funds allocated for other departments be returned to the library account for 2016-2017 year.
“The money lost exceeds $13,000, when you add together databases and other online sources that were previously provided to technology, the loss of the library equipment budget, and the $5,000 which was taken to support athletics over four years ago,” Sroufe said.
PCHS is also requesting that $11,000 be added back to the athletic budget, which would bring the total budget back to the 2008-2009 level of $30,000, Sroufe said.