Raises Included In Proposed School System Budget

NEWARK – Teachers are slated to receive a pay increase in the proposed budget under consideration by the Worcester County Board of Education.

Local education officials on Tuesday reviewed the school system’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget. The spending plan includes funding for teacher pay increases, which officials said would help with recruiting and retaining high quality educators.

“I’m committed to keeping that as a priority,” Superintendent Lou Taylor said.

Taylor kicked off the budget review by stressing the importance of attracting and retaining high quality teachers.  He said that as it typically was, “the overwhelming sentiment” at the public budget input session held in December had been the need for a fair compensation package for educators. He added that throughout the budget, officials had focused on including expenditures that benefited local students.

“We must continue to ask ourselves, ‘is this good for the kids?’” Taylor said.

Vince Tolbert, the school system’s chief financial officer, said that of the current year’s $116 million budget, the county funded roughly 82% of it. Looking ahead to the coming fiscal year, Tolbert said though salary negotiations were ongoing, budget requests included $1.1 million for a step increase and $650,000 for a 1% cost of living adjustment. Health insurance rates, while not final yet, are not expected to increase.

“Right now it’s looking good,” Tolbert said.

The proposed budget includes $43,930 for an increase in bus contractor rates as well as $315,000 to maintain all-day pre-kindergarten programs at Showell and Pocomoke elementary schools. The spending plan also allocates $225,000 in funding associated with the school system’s transition to Apple products last year. Tolbert said the timing of the move to iPads and other Apple products had been perfect.

“Those devices have been instrumental in us being able to do remote learning,” he said.

In one-time capital requests, the proposed budget includes $295,800 for the replacement of the fire alarm systems at Pocomoke and Snow Hill middle schools.

“We know it’s going to be a tough budget year, so we kept capital requests down,” Tolbert said.

In revenue estimates, Tolbert said maintenance of effort funding would equate to a $1,014,455 increase in county funding. Worcester County is also expected to receive a $167,729 increase in state funding.

Taylor said the bulk of the school system’s budget was spent on its people, adding the budget had been developed with the ongoing pandemic in mind.

“We certainly understand the times we’re living in,” he said.

The proposed budget is expected to be adopted by the school board Feb. 16.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.