Answering the Board of Supervisors

  • How will adding Elementary School 18 affect enrollment distributions?

    Official boundary lines have not been created; however, adding Elementary School #18 will impact the boundary lines for the elementary schools in the south.  Hartwood ES, Rocky Run ES, Falmouth ES, and Conway ES should be most directly impacted.  Unfortunately, ES #18 will not relieve any of the schools in the northern end of the County.  Elementary School #19 will need to be added to relieve the overcrowding of the schools in the north.

    Details of procurement for custodial contract?

    The contract for custodial services was procured in accordance with the Virginia Public Procurement Act. The request for proposal was evaluated based on the following: 1) specific plan/methodology to be used to perform the services, 2) qualifications & experience, and 3) price. 

    Staff weighed the proposal’s plan/methodology against their price to determine the best and most qualified fit and best value for Stafford Schools.  For instance, some proposals included a lower overall total price but they were only paying their custodians minimum wage (or close to it). Staff took this seriously given the feedback we heard from the previous custodians about the low pay and lack of benefits.

    The request for proposal/competitive negotiation process is a best value procurement method, and evaluating proposals submitted includes careful consideration of the offer as a whole. Proposals/offers vary, so price comparison alone does not identify the offeror that provides the lowest overall price or best proposal. The successful offeror, Associated Building Maintenance, provides their employees with a minimum pay of $15/hour, 19 paid time off days annually, and health, dental, & other insurance options. Staff also successfully negotiated value added services at no additional cost, such as electrostatic cleaning, and annual high bay clearing, e.g. cafeteria, gymnasium, and other high ceiling areas. The new contract also includes a process for Associated to provide an invoice credit for any months in which its staffing level falls below 100%, and for unsatisfactory cleaning charges.

    Stafford Schools received proposals from 16 different contractors. Hourly wages and benefits offered to their custodians was a critical criteria taken into account as part of evaluating the proposer’s specific plan and methodology. All of the top proposals offered at least $15/hour for their custodians.  Anything less than $15/hour would have resulted in the same shortages and issues we experienced in previous years and the start of this year. There were several proposals that offered far less than $15/hour to their custodians. For one of them, Stafford Schools is considering legal action because they continue to smear our integrity.

    How much carryover did the Schools have at the end of last year?

    The Schools ended FY ‘22 with a carryover of $1.76M. This represents only 0.5% of the total budget (less than 1%).  This is an extremely tight budget with minimal savings at year end. It is not unusual for a school division to have 3% of their total budget available at the end of the year. 

    What costs, if any, in the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget or School Board’s Approved Budget could be covered by one-time costs?

    Approximately 85% of the Schools’ budget is for compensation and benefits. There are minimal items in the budget that are considered one time costs that aren’t recurring. For example, the purchase of buses ($140k each) could be considered one-time costs; however, these items need to be purchased each year in order to maintain a cyclic replacement schedule. It is bad financial practice to use one-time funding for an expenditure that will be recurring. 

    Do the schools have adequate Building division staff to be feasibly able to handle moving up school projects?

    The Schools are prepared with adequate Facilities and Construction staff for the approved and proposed upcoming school projects. In addition to internal staff, Schools have augmented construction management with third party support. This is normal on any large construction project to have a third party clerk of the works to help deliver projects on time and under budget. The third party support, who have extensive K-12 construction experiences, is involved during the design phase through the completion of construction.  This approach reduces change orders and keeps project costs down. As an example, our third party construction managers have already identified savings in multiple areas of the High School #6 project.

    Why is Community Engagement: Special Events, Supplies non-discretionary?

    As an organization, especially one our size, having events like retirement ceremonies, ground-breakings/ribbon-cuttings, teacher of the year celebrations, partner recognition events, etc. are absolutely necessary. This is basic (minimal effort) in terms of staff retention and morale. If we didn’t do these sorts of things, we would be the only school division in Virginia not to do so. These events were eliminated during the pandemic and reduced in the budget. As good fiscal stewards, we should budget for the things we actually do versus scouring the couch cushions to do (minimally) nice things for partners and staff. So, this year, we are budgeting for them appropriately.

    How is non-discretionary and discretionary differentiated in the School Operating Budget?

    The budget summary sheet shared with the Board of Supervisors and public breaks out all additions to the budget into two main categories - discretionary and non-discretionary.  The non-discretionary items total $16.4M and represent the increases to the budget to “Keep the Lights On” or maintain ongoing operations (growth) or items that are tied to state Code or regulations. Non-discretionary items have virtually no choice (discretion) association with them.  For example, we cannot control gas prices.  Another great example, when we add 600 kids, we need more teachers, bus drivers, buses, software licenses, materials, counselors, etc. to serve them.

    The discretionary items are pieces in the budget that either do not have a fixed cost associated with ongoing operations, are not a regulatory requirement, or have flexibility in their implementation.  For example, compensation increases will always be “discretionary” because there is no requirement that staff receive raises each year and because there is some (limited) flexibility in how this initiative is implemented.  In this labor market, we would be foolish not to raise wages (especially when there is a matching state incentive to do so), but in full transparency, they are and will always be discretionary (a choice).

    Breakdown for Compensation: Differentiated Compensation for Hard to Staff? Where do Math and Special Education teachers fit in?
    The proposed budget initiative mentioned includes $3.8M to provide differentiated compensation for hard to staff positions. Math and Special Education teachers would qualify for the highest level of additional compensation ($5,000) and need. This is a private sector strategy that has become more and more necessary in the National Teacher Shortage.  This differentiation would be instrumental in attracting and retaining the most difficult positions to fill. The proposed differentiated compensation positions and amounts are below. 

    Positions

    FY24 FTEs
    (Estimate)

    Proposed Differential

    CTE High Impact

    3

    $5,000

    Math

    185

    $5,000

    Psychologists

    32

    $5,000

    Social Workers

    29

    $5,000

    Special Ed Level 2

    130

    $5,000

    Counselors

    104

    $2,500

    CTE Skilled Trade

    16

    $2,500

    Science

    135

    $2,500

    Special Ed Level 1

    178

    $2,500

    What will the contingency/reserve $12,230,706 be used for?
    The School Board has indicated several different options for this funding. First and foremost, as a genuine contingency reserve. As tightly budgeted as we are - there is NO cushion.  We have trimmed the fat (and there wasn’t much to trim). Having 3% contingency in any budget would be considered prudent and sound financial practice under any circumstances.  

    The School Board also expressed a need to actually pay 3R needs in cash (PAYGO Major Maintenance) versus taking out a debt service to do so, which would save almost $1M per year if all 3R projects were actually funded, let alone debt funded. The School Board feels strongly that this is a better financial practice than the one the County has been engaged in for some time (delay projects or debt finance projects - both of which are more expensive).  

    The School Board also echoed a preference to advance some of the items in the Five-year Budget that the Board of Supervisors asked us to prepare.

    No final decision, as they do not yet have a final number to know what they are working with.

    Where will Elementary #19 be going? What is the status on the land purchase?

    The School Board has held multiple closed sessions to discuss the potential purchase of elementary school land. At this time, the School Board has not taken action on the final site selection for Elementary School #19. The School Board will be discussing this topic again on April 11, 2023. 

    What are the last 10 years of the Superintendent's request and the School Board’s Budget?

    Year Superintendent’s Request School Board’s Request Final Adopted # of Students
    2024 $416,460,537 $442,000,000 N/A 30,972*
    2023 373,924,808 377,270,366 373,924,808 30,622
    2022 340,058,523 343,303,142 341,526,767 30,004
    2021 329,329,248 332,746,792 323,099,249 29,007
    2020 308,234,672 308,008,156 305,381,821 29,576
    2019 295,620,402 296,314,894 289,691,163 28,905
    2018 282,239,030 284,589,623 278,914,735 28,664
    2017 269,088,492 270,088,492 269,152,658 28,298
    2016 265,412,823 263,882,262 260,884,091 27,767
    2015 273,797,379 271,220,803 256,242,629 27,452

    *Projected

    What is the 10 year history of raises for school staff?

    Year Raises
    2024 Average 8.5% Teacher Scale, 9.74% Non-licensed
    2023 Average 13.3% Teacher Scale, 5% Non-licensed
    2022* Average 7.2% Teacher Scale, 5% Non-licensed
    2021* 3% all employees
    2020* 5% all employees, Teacher Scale additional 1% Levels 13+
    2019* 2.5% all employees
    2018* 2% all employees
    2017* 2% all employees; 1% additional for VRS (required by state)
    2016* 1.50% all employees; 1% additional for VRS (required by state)
    2015* 1.50% all employees; 1% additional for VRS (required by state)

    *2015-2022:       All of which contributed to salary compression; we are still playing catch-up

    2015-2024:        All lower than Prince William County Public Schools and dropping rapidly until FY 23, which is still 10-40% lower than Prince William County

    What are the 5 year plan assumptions for raises for school staff?

    The 5-Year Plan projects the implementation of the multi-year approach for the correction of our teacher and service scales. This will see average increases for teachers ranging from 4% - 6.6%. For service staff, the average increase is 4% over the 5-Year Plan.

    Does the teacher step plan implementation differ between Dr. Kizner and Dr. Taylor?

    Yes, the approaches are different. Dr. Taylor’s multi-phrase approach to correcting the teacher scale includes eliminating the salary compression between steps. For each phase, the differential between steps of 3% will be expanded an additional five steps. For instance, in Year 1, there was 3% between each step from 1 to 5; Year 2 sees that expanded to steps 2-10. There remains a differential between each step of 1.5% from step 11 to 35.

    Under Dr. Taylor’s plan, the school division can’t match Prince William in price, we can match the structure of their compensation strategy to make us more competitive.

    Dr. Kizner’s approach (similar to Dr. Benson’s) was to add a flat percentage each year, which creates salary compression between steps. Very expensive to correct but necessary to stay competitive against a 10-40% pay differential.

    Over the last 10 years, what schools were asked for?

    The following new schools were requested during the last 10 years of CIP requests.

      1. High School #6
      2. Elementary School #18
      3. Middle School #9
      4. Add’l Early Childhood Special Education Capacity
      5. Elementary School #19
      6. High School #7
      7. Elementary School #20

    The order of priority has shifted based on growth and population changes, but the project list has not changed. This list does not include rebuilding schools that have extended past their useful life.

    Over the last 10 years, when requesting new schools, what capacity assumption was used, design or program?

    Program capacity has been used for capacity utilization calculations for elementary schools since January 2018. Program capacity provides a real-life student capacity calculation instead of a false image (design capacity) that does not take into account the needs of students with disabilities.

    Design capacity has been used for capacity utilization calculations for middle and high schools because it is more realistic at the secondary level.

    How is the state funding calculated for schools?

    State funding is primarily driven by student enrollment, Standards of Quality (SOQ), and the Local Composite Index (LCI). Based on enrollment, the State calculates the total cost to meet the minimum SOQs and then provides the State’s share. Additionally, if there are state FUNDED initiatives, there will be a state share of that initiative. For instance, the state is providing us their share of a 5% increase in SOQ funded positions. However, the State does not fund the local government share for the SOQ positions and does not provide any funding for the positions over the low SOQ requirement. Stafford Schools has used the additional State funding due to growth in students to offset the local costs. This has caused the per pupil expenditure to rapidly drop and salaries to fall further behind Prince William.

School Board's Approved FY24 Budget

Superintendent's FY24 Proposed Budget

FY24 Budget Development Calendar

FY24 School Board's Budget Priorities