At the Feb. 19 School Board meeting, Dr. Olwen Herron presented the superintendent’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020. Aligned with the school division’s strategic plan, Elevate Beyond Excellence, the budget plan both responsive to the needs of students and competitive in terms of compensation for WJCC Schools employees.
You can read Dr. Herron’s remarks below or click here to view a copy of the Fiscal Year 2020 Superintendent’s Proposed Budget. The next step in the budget development process includes a public hearing on March 5 followed by discussion by the School Board. The Board is scheduled to approve a final budget later in March before sending the plan to the division’s funding partners with the City and County for consideration.
Remarks from Dr. Olwen E. Herron regarding the Fiscal Year 2020 Superintendent’s Proposed Budget
Thank you, Madam Chair. We are delighted to present the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget this evening.
This budget proposal supports over 12,000 students (including PreK), 16 schools, and over 1700 employees. Our schools are a vital, valued, integral part of the City of Williamsburg and James City County. We are fortunate to have the strong support of our community and the respect of our parents, business leaders and elected officials. Our funding partners, City and County, have consistently invested in our schools, our teachers and in our students and we are very grateful for their on-going support.
The school division’s reliance on County and City funding is due to WJCC Schools only receiving about 25% of its funding from the state. Federal funding provides less than half a percent (.5 %) of the WJCC Schools annual operating revenue. That means our localities continue to provide most of the funding to ensure a quality education is provided for all students in WJCC Schools. We are very grateful for their on-going support. I am proud to say that they receive a strong return on their investment. Our schools are among the highest-performing in the Commonwealth. In fact, WJCC is one of a handful of school divisions that have earned state accreditation for 11 consecutive years. This spending plan is designed to build upon that history of achievement.
The FY 20 Proposed Budget is purposefully aligned with the goals of the new strategic plan, Elevate Beyond Excellence. Key priorities include (1) employee compensation, (2) meeting the needs of ALL students (equity); safety and security and most important of all, teaching and learning.
Our MOST important resource in WJCC Schools is people– I am referring to the committed employees of WJCC Schools. Going beyond excellence requires attracting and retaining great people – teachers, administrators, support employees —all of whom contribute to the positive environment that makes it possible for every student to learn. Providing fair compensation for all staff and especially for our teachers – who are at the heart of our mission – is a priority.
Therefore, this budget includes an investment of $3.8 million dollars in our valued employees to move us closer to the regional market average. It proposes an 4% pay raise for all – a step increase coupled with an average of 2.5% for teachers and 4% for all others. If we are to attract and retain the best employees from teachers to bus drivers, we must compensate our employees fairly.
This budget also sustains our investment in quality health insurance for employees. Currently, 27% of the operating budget is allocated to employee benefits and more than $22 million of that directly supports health insurance. For each individual full-time employee with a family who participates, WJCC contributes over $18,000 per year. This is an important piece of the compensation puzzle that greatly benefits all those who chose to access it.
This budget proposal is informed by data. For example:
- An analysis of teacher compensation compared to surrounding divisions demonstrates that we are 7 out of 9 in entry-level teacher salaries for new teachers with a bachelor’s degree and 9 out of 9 in entry-level teacher salaries with a master’s degree.
- A comparison of regional and peer division staffing levels demonstrates we are one of only 2 divisions out of 9 that have only one assistant principal at the middle school level.
- An analysis of support for English Languages Learners (ELs) shows the ratio of teacher to students with limited English Proficiency is higher than our peer and regional school divisions.
Teaching and learning are at the heart of what we do. The proposed budget includes an additional million dollars to fund instructional initiatives, programs and instructional personnel.
This proposed budget also invests in educational equity (goal 2) – that is, making sure every student has what he or she needs to be successful (equity).
Our student population is becoming more diverse – which is a positive thing –but it is imperative that we have the resources to meet the individual needs of ALL students; therefore, over half a million dollars is invested in additional staff and resources to address the growing Special Education and English Learner (EL) populations.
Safety and security (goal 4) remains a priority for the school division with over half a million dollars invested in additional counselors and security officers.
Review and realignment of funds within the various departments has also enabled us to budget for four (4) school buses to continue the bus replacement cycle (an addition of 2 from last year); set aside resources to address specific needs based on data in an equity line ($150,000); and realize almost $1.5 million in savings.
There is nothing in this budget plan that you have not seen or discussed before. With full funding, we are able to meet the essential needs of our students and appropriately compensate our incredibly talented employees.