W-JCC Superintendent requesting $5 million more for FY18

In her first budget as the head of Williamsburg-James City County schools, Olwen Herron is asking for $5 million more — a 4 percent increase — to fund the division next year than her predecessor did at this point last year.

Herron, accompanied by W-JCC Chief Financial Officer Christina Berta, presented the $132.7 million proposed operating budget to the School Board Tuesday night.

“We’re just trying to juggle resources with what we know we need as a division,” Berta said before the meeting.

Herron added: “We’re trying to be very conservative in our approach.”

Revenue and staffing needs are based largely off of expected enrollment. To be conservative, Berta’s calculations are made using the low estimate of projected enrollment, which is 11,459 for 2017-18. That’s up from the 11,431 enrolled in 2016-17.

The largest portion of the 4 percent increase is due to state mandates or contractual obligations, totaling $3.15 million. Nearly half of that, $1.5 million, is a required rate increase in employers’ contributions on behalf of their employees to the Virginia Retirement System.

The overall $5 million increase includes priorities the School Board identified at a January budget retreat, such as teacher and staff raises and creating 13 new full-time positions.

The personnel increases — teacher and staff raises of 1.5 percent and creating the full-time positions — amount to $1.1 million each. The full-time positions include four new teachers ($300,000) and two new assistant teachers ($70,000) in special education, and one additional English-as-a-second-language teacher ($75,000).

The largest single full-time employee allocation is $135,000 for the principal at James Blair Middle School, opening in 2018.

Other funds would go toward laptops for middle and high school students ($480,000), the New Horizons Program ($251,000), the Virtual Learning Program ($100,000), expanding the Early College Program ($90,000) and instructional materials and transportation for the Pathways Program ($135,000).

Later this spring, the School Board will begin to tackle redistricting ahead of James Blair opening next year. The budget allocates $150,000 for the task, which could be applied to hiring an outside firm to do the work if the board so chooses.

While Herron is requesting more money this year, she’s only expecting a small bump in the state’s contribution, based on the governor’s proposed budget. She said more may come once the General Assembly approves a final budget later this spring.

Of the $5 million increase, the state is expected to contribute $900,000, leaving the remaining $4.1 million to be made up for mostly by the localities.

James City County and Williamsburg, including state sales tax revenues which are counted as local sources, make up 75 percent of the division’s revenue totals. With the proposed budget, that translates to $99.1 million for FY18.

Of that, Williamsburg contributes 9.5 percent and JCC takes on the rest. To pay for the increase, JCC’s contribution less the sales tax amounts to $3.7 million and the city’s is just over $400,000.

Next month, the School Board will have a joint meeting with the County Board of Supervisors and City Council on the budget on March 17.

On March 7, the board will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget ahead of the regularly scheduled meeting that night. The board is expected to approve the budget either March 21 or March 28, with enough time to hand it off to the localities by April 1.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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