NEWARK – Pay increases for teachers and bus contractors highlight the school system’s proposed $102 million budget for the coming year.
The $102,343,405 fiscal year 2017 budget includes a STEP increase for more than half of the school system’s employees and a one percent increase for the remaining employees who are beyond the STEP scale.
“Ninety percent of our budget is people and bus contractors,” said Vince Tolbert, the school system’s chief financial officer.
In the preliminary budget approved Tuesday by the Worcester County Board of Education, the $102 million spending plan is made up of slightly less than $83 million in county appropriations — a $3.4 million increase over the current year — and $19 million in state aid — a $35,453 decrease over the current year.
Though agreements with the Worcester County Teachers Association and the support staff association have not yet been ratified, Tolbert said the groups had agreed on a STEP increase for eligible employees (633) and a one percent increase for remaining employees (515). The starting teacher salary, which had dropped to 19th in the state, is expected to be increased from $42,433 to $43,384.
In addition, bus contractors are slated to receive a one-percent increase in hourly and mileage rates. Roughly $56,000 has also been allotted to help contractors purchasing new buses.
Along with the raises, the proposed budget’s expenditure increases are made up of an increase in the local share of the teacher pension and additional spending for instructional software.
In addition, insurance costs are expected to go up in the coming year. Tolbert said those rates, however, would not be finalized until May.
Jonathan Cook, president of the school board, said the budget exhibited the school system’s commitment to its employees.
“Worcester County is about our people,” he said. “That’s where the budget is.”
School system officials are expected to review the proposed budget with the Worcester County Commissioners in March. Following the commissioners’ approval of a budget in early June, the board of education will approve an official operating budget on June 21.