by Madison White Franks
LANCASTER—Making sure teacher salaries are competitive with those of surrounding counties echoed through a public hearing April 11 as the Lancaster board of supervisors entertained comments on a proposed $16.8 million school budget for fiscal 2018-19.
The budget includes a 3% pay raise for teachers.
Middle school math teacher Adam Redinger said he supported the budget because of a proposed pay increase for teachers.
Two things that would improve with increasing teacher salaries are retaining teachers and drawing new teachers, said Redinger.
“This budget will not only invest in our teachers but our kids. The biggest thing that we can do as the older generation is to make sure the next ones coming up get more than we had. I personally think the best way to do that is to invest in their education,” said high school history teacher Devin Carter.
Teachers need a reason to stay, said Carter, implying teacher salaries need to be higher.
“We have some of the best teachers, the most dedicated, who teach with their heart. They don’t teach for the salary…obviously,” said middle school reading teacher Thirza Trant.
“The school board did a great job and a very austere job of putting together the budget. I like the budget largely because it preserves the preschool programs…it also provides a modest increase in salary for the teachers,” said Bill Warren.
The proposed budget is less than what is realistically required to operate a school system of our size, said Warren.
“Lancaster and Northumberland counties have about the same population, number of students and have similar county budgets and personal property tax rates; however, there is a great disparity between the two counties when it comes to funding for schools. Specifically, for the past three years, Northumberland has received $1.3 to $1.6 million more funding than Lancaster,” he said.
Northumberland is giving its schools approximately 9% more than Lancaster, he added. Northumberland has proposed $14.6 million in non-school categories and Lancaster has $17.5.
“We are paying $2.8 million more for non-school services than a county that has 1,300 more people than we do,” he said.
“It’s not fair to compare us to any other county because I think frankly, that is setting the bar too low. I think we should be the high watermark of every neighboring county…I think this budget is a small step in the right direction,” said parent and teacher Sam Terry.
The budget requests an increase of $505,000 in local funds, said George Bott.
“This increase is historically large and is equivalent to a two-cent tax increase,” he said.
As a taxpayer, parent and instructional technology resource teacher, Sarah Terry said she is willing to pay more.
“Just a little bit more makes a big difference,” she said.
“The approval and passage of the presented Lancaster County Public School budget should be without a question, a resounding yes,” said Lancaster County Virginia Education Foundation (LCVEF) founder Margaret Socey.
“At this time, it’s imperative for the county to invest in the education of its children,” said LCVEF chairman and primary school counselor Jamilah Sawyer.
“Our children deserve the best education. Period,” said superintendent Steve Parker.
Supervisors are expected to take action on the school budget at 5:30 p.m. tonight, April 19, at the County Administration Building, 8311 Mary Ball Road, Lancaster.