School Board Hears $338.7M in Budget Requests During First Work Session (2024)

The School Board on Thursday reviewed requests from six different departments totaling $338.7 million during its first work session on Superintendent Aaron Spence’s proposed $1.8 billion fiscal year 2025 budget.

There were a total of 15 new full time equivalent positions requested by the departments, including three for Human Resources and Talent Development, to cover Title IX positions; two new web developer positions added to the Communications and Community Engagement officein addition to Chief Communications and Community Engagement Officer Natalie Allen who was hired August 2023. Five new positions are requested for the Department of Digital Innovation—two to support the opening of Henrietta Lacks Elementary School and Watson Mountain Middle School next fall, two supervisors and a service desk engineer; and four in the Office of the Superintendent; three for the office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility, and a new school security officer at Watson Mountain Middle School.

The Department of Digital Innovation presented the largest budget request for the night, seeking $65.2 million, an overall increase of 3.3%.

Chief Technology Officer Aaron Smith said the office was responsible for providing more than 25,000 devices for students, more than 2,800 devices for staff members, the replacement of classroom technology including the interactive panels, software and licensing agreements, cybersecurity, internet and network connectivity, cell phones, hotspots and bus WIFI.

He said the department will have 267 employees with the addition of five requested FTEs for FY2025 and said they are introducing a 24/7/365 monitoring service.

HRTD, which will have a total of 83 employees with the addition of the three requested this year, is seeking $16.9 million, a 6.7% increase from FY2024’s adopted budget. Of that amount, $14.5 million is slated for salaries and benefits.

Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Boland introduced several recruitment and retention initiatives, including a $2,000 new teacher sign-on bonus and an additional $2,000 for teachers who sign on to teach special education or at a Title I school, increasing the daily substitute teacher rate from $112 to $135 and increasing the daily sub loyalty rate from $133 to $150 a day. The loyalty rate is an enhanced pay rate for substitutes who work more than 25 days in a teaching position. She said that with the increases division’s subs will be paid closer to neighboring divisions. Prince William County daily subs are paid $136 a day, followed by $133 in Fairfax County. A phased tuition assistance program that will start in FY2025 with $300,000 and a dedicated employee assistance counselor were also introduced.

The Department of Business and Financial Services requested $12.4 million to fund 70 positions, the same number the department has had since 2023. Chief Financial Officer Sharon Willoughby said it’s a 3.6% overall increase, with a large part of their operations and maintenance increase attributed to credit card fees, inflation, a higher volume of professional accounting services to help with the two new schools and materials and supplies.

Under the umbrella of the Department of Business and Financial Services is the School Nutrition fund, which employs 419 workers and has a budget of $48.8 million. This number, according to Willoughby is down $2.9 million from FY2024’s adopted budget and down about 18 positions, 17 which were floater school nutrition workers that were reduced in the FY2025 budget, and one was a vacant school nutrition specialist.

Changes coming to the School Nutrition Fund for FY2025 include a proposed $0.20 increase for all meals, which will bring elementary lunches to $3.25 and secondary lunches to $3.35. Breakfast will increase to $2.30.

She also said the division will get additional federal support in FY2025 because of the expansion of eligibility for the United States Department of Agriculture Community Eligibility Program that offers free meals to every student enrolled at qualifying schools. She said because of the change in student percentage ratios, they estimate about 20 schools will qualify in FY2025, up from 11 this year.

Willoughby noted that in FY2023 the division had over $130,000 unpaid student meal debt and said FY2024 is already looking at $102,000. She said they are continuing their efforts to support universal free meals at school.

The Office of the School Board requested $1.6 million, or a 5.4% increase from last year’s adopted budget. The office saw a 4.1% increase in personnel costs attributable to the vote to increase the salary of School Board members when it adopted the FY2024 budget. That increase, $27,456 for board members and $30, 201 for the chair, went into effect Jan. 1.

The department has 10 employees, including one full time aid for each School Board member and the School Board clerk. The office saw a 14.2% increase in operations and maintenance costs in FY2025, increasing from $196,972 to $224,972 due to software and software license, translation services and travel costs, according to Chief of Staff Daniel Smith.

The Superintendent’s Office, which consists of the office of DEIA, the Auditor General, the Chief of Staff (which includes the Safety and Security office, the Office of the Ombuds, and the office of Strategic Planning) and the Division Counsel had the second largest budget ask of $22.2 million. The office, with a total of 139 positions for FY2025, had a 5.3% increase in personnel costs and a 25.7% increase in operations and maintenance costs. Smith said those increases were attributable to office, supplies, printing, uniforms for the safety and security officers, software licenses and computers.

Individual office budgets include $723,753 for the Auditor General’s Office, an increase of 4.98%, $863,884 and a 9.98% increase for the office of Chief of Staff, a $2.5 million and a 32.21% increase for the DEIA office, a $2.2 million budget for the division counsel, $247,989 and a 13.26% increase for the office of the Ombuds, $15 million budget and an 11.13% increase for the safety and security office and $800,925 for the superintendent’s office, a 71.57% decrease from FY2024.

Finally, the Department of Communication and Community Engagement presented a $3.4 million budget, an 11.1% increase over FY2024’s revised budget. The department saw a 31% increase from the adopted FY2024 budget which includes the addition of Allen’s salary and benefits. The ask for two additional FTE’s increases the personnel budget by 13.6% from FY2024 revised budget.

Allen said in her presentation that, based on 2022 survey responses from members of the National School Public Relations Association, that school divisions with 75,000 students have communications teams of 15 or more. With the two FTEs and Allen’s position added last year, the division will have 16 members of its communications team.

Willoughby walked board members through understanding staffing standards and compensation as well as a fund that is called the non-departmental fund. The non-departmental section covers division wide costs that are not associated with a particular department and include costs associated with retiree health care, disbursem*nts of athletic ticket sales back to schools, FTEs related to contingency and flexible staffing among other items. The non-departmental fund’s total FY2025 budget ask is $168 million.

The School Board will hear form the Departments of Academics, Teaching and Learning and Student Services Jan. 30 at 4:30 and from the Departments of School Leadership and Support Services Feb. 1.

The budget is scheduled to be adopted Feb. 6 after a public hearing.

As a seasoned expert in educational administration and budgetary matters, it's evident that the information you've provided pertains to the fiscal year 2025 budget proposal for a school district. The details cover various departments, their budgetary requests, and the specific allocations for new positions and initiatives. Allow me to break down the concepts embedded in the article with a keen focus on the key departments involved:

  1. Overall Budget Overview:

    • The Superintendent, Aaron Spence, has proposed a $1.8 billion budget for the fiscal year 2025.
    • Six different departments have requested a total of $338.7 million.
  2. Departmental Requests:

    • Department of Digital Innovation:
      • Largest budget request of $65.2 million, with a 3.3% increase.
      • Focus on providing devices, cybersecurity, internet connectivity, and a new 24/7/365 monitoring service.
    • Human Resources and Talent Development (HRTD):
      • Requests $16.9 million, a 6.7% increase, including three positions for Title IX compliance.
      • Initiatives for teacher recruitment and retention, including sign-on bonuses and increased substitute teacher rates.
    • Department of Business and Financial Services:
      • Seeks $12.4 million for 70 positions, a 3.6% increase.
      • Highlights credit card fees, inflation, and increased professional accounting services for new schools.
    • School Nutrition Fund:
      • Budget of $48.8 million with proposed meal price increases and federal support due to expanded eligibility.
      • Efforts to address unpaid student meal debt and promote universal free meals.
    • Office of the School Board:
      • Requests $1.6 million, a 5.4% increase, with a focus on increased personnel and operations costs.
    • Superintendent’s Office:
      • Second-largest budget request of $22.2 million, with increases in personnel and operations costs.
      • Breakdown of individual office budgets within the Superintendent’s Office.
  3. Communication and Community Engagement:

    • A $3.4 million budget, an 11.1% increase, with a focus on communication team expansion.
  4. Non-Departmental Fund:

    • Covers division-wide costs not associated with a specific department.
    • Total FY2025 budget request is $168 million.
  5. Upcoming Steps:

    • The School Board will hear from the Departments of Academics, Teaching and Learning, and Student Services on Jan. 30, and from the Departments of School Leadership and Support Services on Feb. 1.
    • The budget is scheduled to be adopted on Feb. 6 after a public hearing.

In conclusion, the detailed breakdown of departmental requests and initiatives reflects a comprehensive approach to addressing various aspects of education, from technology and HR to nutrition and communication. This expertise is rooted in a deep understanding of educational administration and budget management.

School Board Hears $338.7M in Budget Requests During First Work Session (2024)

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