BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post —
Northampton County Public Schools will give its teachers average raises of 7% this year, even if Virginia’s state budget includes teacher raises of only 5%.
“The hope here is that additional state funds are forthcoming to cover … the extra 2%, but if not, then the board of supervisors has committed to approving use of other funds that would fund that differential on a one-time basis,” said Brook Thomas, Northampton schools’ chief financial officer.
The Northampton School Board would be responsible for determining how to continue funding the additional 2% teacher raises in FY 2025 and beyond.
Northampton County supervisors approved last month the school division’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which was based on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed “skinny budget” for Virginia.
Because Virginia has a two-year state budget that runs through June of next year, the state continues to operate unencumbered even though the General Assembly failed to pass budget amendments for FY 2024 before the new fiscal year began July 1.
The budget under which Virginia currently operates includes the state’s share of the cost of just a 5% raise for teachers.
The state budget does not include extra funding for at-risk students, those who are at risk of failure due to factors such as poverty.
The state budget does not include temporary funding for additional instructional assistants that Northampton would place in its middle school.
Neither does the state budget include a one-time funding distribution for Northampton and Accomack’s public schools to help them provide competitive salaries for teachers.
Northampton supervisors approved the school division’s total operating budget of nearly $31 million, which includes about $21 million for instruction.
Supervisors also approved “additional transactions” that needed the school board’s approval, Thomas said.
Among them was a $1.9 million appropriation for the school capital improvement fund, from the additional 1% sales tax Northampton collects specifically for school construction projects and related debt service.
An $850,000 appropriation from the county’s capital reserve fund was related to a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant that had been awarded for equipment at Northampton’s high and middle schools and generators and medical equipment for the two elementary schools, Thomas said.
Northampton supervisors appropriated a payment of about $978,000 on the debt service for the high school and middle school modernization project.
Supervisors also included an appropriation of nearly $53 million, the current outstanding balance on the high school and middle school project and the work completed by ABM, a building maintenance company that specializes in energy efficiency.
The ABM project included the installation of new geothermal HVAC systems at Kiptopeke and Occohannock elementary schools.
The loans paying for these projects are in the form of bonds that were issued by the Virginia Public School Authority.
County supervisors’ additions brought Northampton’s total operating budget for FY 2024 to more than $88 million.
School budget items that are on hold while local officials await news on the state budget include: a second behavioral specialist for the school division, a second student mentor for Northampton High School, additional instructional assistants for grades 3 to 6, temporary funding for eight additional instructional assistants at Northampton Middle School, and expanded funding for dual-enrollment credits.