New Kent Charles City Chronicle

News for New Kent County and Charles City County, Virginia | March 20, 2023

Charles City school superintendent pegs budget figure at $10.8 million for FY2023-24

By Andre Jones | March 15, 2023 12:48 am

With their location between two major metropolitans, Charles City Superintendent of Schools Dalphine Joppy knew her upcoming budget had to focus on attracting teachers and retaining current employees as well.

With that information in tow, Joppy proposed a $10,805,970 operating budget for the FY2023-24 for Charles City County Public Schools during Tuesday night’s public hearing.

Utilizing Governor Glenn Youngkin’s budget and a projected average daily membership (ADM) of 499, Joppy focused on personnel as most of her budget needs. Among targeted areas include a five-percent pay raise for employees, the addition of an assistant principal ($126,526), adding a math interventionist ($80,000), a high school special education teacher, instructional aides at both the elementary school level and pre-kindergarten level, and a Medicaid billing specialist. According to Charles City Public School personal finance director Greg Dale, a five-percent raise would cost $422,810.

Of the $10.8 million proposal in the operations budget, the school system is asking for the county to provide $6,502,486 in local dollars. That is an increase of $886,034, or 2.6 percent, from the current local contribution of $5,616,451.

The school’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) totals $1,290.857. Of that amount, $10,805,970 are funds from the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) grant. Joppy commented that those funds would be used to address the school’s wastewater treatment plant in the amount of $1,080,660.

The school system is requesting $210,197 of local dollars to support other CIP projects of the school. The top priorities are the purchase of one 71-passenger school bus ($155,917), one seven-passenger van ($40,000), and a high jump landing pit for the track facility ($15,000). In total with self-sustaining funds, the CIP, and other categories, the proposed budget totals $14,252,626.

Joppy’s concern about employee retention and attraction was echoed during the public comment period. But some items did cost questions and concerns from long-time school employees.

“I don’t see why an assistant principal is getting $124,000,” commented Juanita Pate, a school teacher at Charles City Elementary. “I have been here for 22-years and that is more than double the salary of what I am making now.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult and a five-percent raise just isn’t going to be enough,” she added. “I can go to nearby counties and make anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000 more, but I stay here because I am loyal and love the kids. I think we are spending a lot at the top and now down below where it’s needed.”

“We have good teachers in the county,” commented Bailey Martin. “But if you say retention is the priority, you need to provide a good work environment and structure pay to get teachers to stay. I wouldn’t mind seeing teachers who have been loyal and here for a long period of time get more money.”

After the public hearing closed, school board members commented that the facilities also need attention.

“I walked out to our baseball and softball fields, and it needs to be done,” said at-large representative Preston Adkins. “From the quotes I received, it would take $100,000 per field to get it done.

“The quick fix is to take care of the infields and that would cost about $20,000,” he added. “We want our kids to play sports, but they can’t do that when there is water on the field. I am hoping someway we can squeeze out that amount.”

For at-large member Royce Paige, he also echoed environmental concerns stemming from the deteriorating complex.

“The water from our school system drains to the back to the creek,” he said. “That creek runs to the James River. We need to start working to clean-up around these buildings because that run-off goes into a permanent river and that stuff shouldn’t be drained down there. It could shut us down.”

School board members encouraged those in attendance to speak with local governmental officials to gain support for additional funding.

“We need help,” Paige said. “We need help at home, and we need help getting funds to retain teachers. Every child is entitled to a fair education and to do that, we need to attract the best possible teachers.”

School board members will have a week to digest the information and are expected to take action at their Mar. 21 regular school board meeting.