Northampton schools eye FY24 budget shortfall of $1.2M

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BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post —

The Northampton schools budget for fiscal year 2024 will have a funding shortfall of nearly $1.2 million unless Virginia’s state budget provides additional funding for public education.

The General Assembly passed only a “skinny budget” at its last session, but the stopgap measure will be replaced with a full budget once state legislators agree on the details, Superintendent Lisa Martin said March 16.

The worst-case scenario is the Northampton school board asking county supervisors for an additional $1.2 million in local funding.

Martin can reduce the request for additional funding to about $834,000 if necessary.

The school division finds itself in a tough position because the state is offering increased funding for education, but a local match is required.

Northampton essentially must spend money to make money, and the school division is not in a position to decline the offer of funding for teachers, administrators, and school support staff required by the Virginia Department of Education’s Standards of Quality.

Starting with the next school year, VDOE will increase the number of required specialized student support positions from three to four per 1,000 students.

These positions include school nurses, psychologists, and social workers.

Available state funding for Northampton schools in FY 2024 includes about $415,000 for average daily enrollment, $507,000 for compensation supplements, $156,000 for teacher bonuses, and $216,000 for at-risk programs.

The school division’s proposed budget is based on a projected average daily membership, or ADM, of 1,300 students.

The budget includes the 7% teacher raises recommended by the state, which will be achieved by giving every teacher a 5.75% raise plus a step raise of 1.25% to 1.5%.

One step on the salary scale represents one year of experience. There are 31 steps on the salary scale, from zero to 30. A first-year teacher with no previous experience starts on step zero.

In response to teacher feedback, raises will no longer be calculated using the midpoint method, Martin said.

The midpoint method involves applying the percentage raise to the middle salary on the scale and giving every teacher the same dollar amount.

Martin also suggested increasing the school division’s minimum wage to $13 per hour, at a cost of about $36,000, or $14 per hour, at a cost of about $86,000.

This budget item would be one of the first to be cut, as Virginia’s mandatory minimum wage will not increase until Jan. 1, 2025, when it will rise from $12 per hour to $13.50 per hour.

Expenditure increases for at-risk students, those who could fail due to poverty and other factors, totaled about $633,000.

That includes $135,000 to add four instructional assistants for grades three to six at Occohannock and Kiptopeke elementary schools, and another $135,000 for four instructional assistants at Northampton Middle School.

The school division would get a second behavior specialist at a cost of around $90,000 and keep a math instructional coach position, which is currently funded by Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief or ESSER, for an additional $90,000.

A teacher of English as a second language would be added at a cost of about $75,000.

Martin also discussed a new item in the proposed budget, a $19,000 stipend for an athletic trainer who would be qualified to provide care to a student who experiences a health emergency and collapses on the playing field.

The budget is due to the county March 31 and will be presented to supervisors Tuesday, April 11.

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