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Lunenburg County Public Schools offered a first look at their budget and preliminary forecast for the upcoming fiscal year. In what was termed a “needs based” outlook and not a “wants based” look ahead, LCPS is expecting to need an additional $500,000 in additional funding.
LCPS Superintendent Charles Berkley said that this would “keep us moving in the right direction.”
He continued, “This is not a final complete budget and not the final budget we will present to county officials later, but this is what we think we need to continue moving forward at this point.”
Mr. Berkley stated, “Our goal is to provide quality individualized educational, which is challenging for each student and helps them meet his or her unique talents and aspirations.”
Among the goals for the upcoming budget are to provide high quality education, high quality professionals, a safe learning environment, innovative and cutting edge technology and have family and community engagement.
Mr. Berkley pointed out that Lunenburg was one of just 12 areas that did not offer any salary increase to employees in the previous year, because their budget was so tight. It is also currently over $7,000 behind the national average for salaries.
A large part of the additional funding is an increase in the amount owed by the school system for the state retirement rate, which is something that the local schools have no control over. There is also an expected increase of as much as 19% for health insurance.
In addition to that, there is an expected increase in special education students enrolled at the school and there are federal requirements in terms of staff, facilities and other accommodations that must be met by a school.
The budget increase would also help with the purchase of one school bus. LCPS did not purchase any last year because of the budget constraints. The two elementary schools have HVAC units that are 25 years old when the life expectancy of those units is 12-15 years.
A salary adjustment is also in the budget that would just be a 2% increase that was not given last year.
LCPS avoided filling vacancies in recent years to help with budget issues and put additional “hats” as Mr. Berkley called them on teachers and administrators and he applauded the staff at the schools and administrators for their dedication to the students in taking on the extra responsibilities. He stated, “It is a shame that we bring in a new teacher and they do well and start to make progress, and then leave for more money at another job.”
Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Operations James Abernathy said that the increase in VRS was a big issue this year. He stated, “We definitely need some support this year to remain competitive.”
Not even in the budget are overall improvements that are needed such as paving and repair to parking lots, painting, and even vehicle replacement for transportation needed to accommodate special needs students.
LCPS asked for some additional funding last year from county officials, but were flat funded once again. Neighboring areas such as Nottoway are asking for several million dollars from local officials this year in their budget projections.