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2018 Tax Rate Adopted

The Board of Supervisors voted to adopt tax rates for 2018 as a part of the Fiscal Year 2019 budget process.   The tax rate that garnered the most attention was the real estate tax rate.   Unanimously the Board voted to set the tax rate at $0.99.

Speaking to their support of teachers, fire and rescue, law enforcement and county employees Supervisors stated they were willing to set the rate at $.99 that will effectively be an increase on the average tax bill in the county, to ensure their priorities were funded.   Supervisor Maurer made it clear that  the rate at $0.99 will not fully fund the School Board’s funding request.  In order to fully fund the school’s request, according to Maurer, it would require a rate of $1.05.   Several Supervisors stated that they will encourage and watch the School Board to ensure the money they allocate to schools provides the 2.5% across the board salary increases.

 

County Budget

We have been planning to do a deep dive into the FY19 Stafford County Budget.  Unfortunately we didn’t realize the level of effort that would take.

First the only document on-line, at the time of this writing, is the FY2019 Proposed Budget that was prepared by the County Administrator.   The Board of Supervisors does not typically develop other documents during their discussions while working on the budget.  Furthermore the Board does very little discussing of the budget during meetings that are recorded on video.  Often discussion occurs during committee meetings of the Finance and Budget Committee, whose meetings are not recorded.   The full Board will discuss the budget in a future Board meeting and will eventually adopt the final budget.

The proposed budget was developed with a tax rate of $0.965 which is the equalized rate intended to not change the average tax bill for Stafford County home owners. We have previously detailed the level of education funding in the proposed budget.   The Supervisors, in various meetings, have nearly unanimously indicated their desire to ensure school employees receive a 2.5% salary increase, as proposed by the School Board’s budget.   To that end the Supervisors have advertised the tax rate at $0.99.  It is expected they will adopt that rate when they adopt the final budget.  That rate will provide additional revenue that is expected to be dedicated to education enabling the School Board to provide raises to school division employees.

Reviewing the FY2019 Proposed Budget – budget book is more challenging than expected.   The online version of the budget is nearly 450 pages long.  It’s always concerning when public bodies expand their budget presentations and documents.   Public body budgets should be simple to read, concise and not filled with useless filler intended to distract the reader.  We will withhold judgement as to whether that is the intent of the the county’s budget book, however there is much more material than necessary within it.

The budget book is structured by chapter with a second chapter that is over 40 pages long that contains documents and parts of documents such as the Comprehensive Plan,  BOS Financial Guidelines and other guiding documents.   As we chronicled in a previous post the county lacks a single Strategic Plan and relies on several plans and documents guide priorities and direction.  The County Administrator included these plans in the budget, presumably to provide some sort of measure of success of the budget meeting the goals of the documents.

As we dive into the financial information of the budget itself it starts with information about the revenue side of the ledger.  However, we are going to focus our time on the expenditure side.    Starting on Page 114 of the document the County Administration expenditures and FY19 budgeted items are laid out.  Well at least some of the information.   The budget summary is limited to two lines, Personnel and Operating.   While there are two data points of previous years actual expenditures FY 18 is only represented with what was budgeted in last year’s budget and budgeted amount for FY 17 is not included.   It makes it difficult to see any trends in budgeted versus actual costs and analyze how the county administration and Board is doing hitting the marks on budgeting accuracy.

Furthermore, the Board of Supervisors has been critical of the School Board for having spent money and budgeted for professional development for school staff.  However, it is interesting that in the call out it states there is increases to funding for “seminars and conferences based on historical data.”   The only unfunded items listed are a total of $2,000 for webinars and leadership courses.

The budget continues to go through each county government department.   It’s interesting that there are a number of additional positions added throughout the county government and a number of funding increases.

Members of the Board of Supervisors have stated their commitment and priority to education and ensuring teachers get 2.5% raises in this years budget.  In order to accomplish that the BOS has been very critical of every line of spending proposed by the School Board.  It will be interesting to watch to see if they will be as critical of their own budget as they are of the schools’.   It is obvious there are plenty of opportunities to scrub the county budget to find savings and help the BOS meet their goals.

A particular interesting section of the county budget is the section on Economic Development.  Supervisors, and Rockhill Supervisor Wendy Maurer in particular, were critical of the accuracy of data the School Board provided in student population,  budget numbers and staffing requirements.   They are right to press the School Board on accuracy of data, but the Board of Supervisors should want to ensure data in the county’s budget is accurate as well.  In the Economic Development Department section there is a call out box with department accomplishments.   There are items the department is chalking up as accomplishments, but there should be scrutiny on the claims.  At least one of the companies listed in the section taking credit for adding jobs and leasing corporate space is nothing more than a corporate name change.

DXC is listed in the call box.  The company is a new corporate name for HP Government services.  They are a large contractor supporting Marine Corps IT services.  They lease space in a building on Woodstream Drive.   The company name changed in 2017 and the amount of space leased did not change and the number of jobs did not change.  The good news for Stafford County Economic Development is the company is set to change it’s name again this year . . .perhaps they can take credit for jobs and leased space for the same company again next year.

Another peculiar thing they list as an accomplishment is Aquia Town Center . . .things that make you go hmmm?

How do you define insanity?

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.”  -W. Edwards Deming

For years the School Board and Board of Supervisors have developed the county’s Capital Improvement Plan by first the School Board setting their priorities and adopting their version of the plan.   The School Board would then send their plan over to the Board of Supervisors who would take a look at the proposed School Board projects, combine them with county projects, re-prioritize the whole list, then adopt the county’s Capital Improvement Plan.   Projects the School Board prioritize and included in their plan may or may not have remained on the final plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors.   The school division would have to live with whatever the county adopted as the final plan.

The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is how the county plans and finances large expense projects.   Capital Improvement Plans are typically reserved for new buildings, renovation of existing buildings and park and transportation projects. The plan details estimated costs and the availability of debt from year to year.

Due to the way the county has developed the CIP for years projects get promoted and demoted on the list somewhat randomly.  The current way of doing it  gives members of the Board of Supervisors more powerful to advocate or eliminate projects than School Board members.   It also enables stronger voiced members to advocate louder for projects in their districts over broader county needs.   Over the years this had lead to situations like Ferry Farm Elementary School continuously being pushed down a list of priority and not being considered for renovation or rebuild in a timely manner.

In 2017 the two board embarked on a fix to the CIP process to adopt an actual process in which the needs of the county as a whole were examined above political or personal motivations of individual board members.   The new process involved a review by committees of staff from both the school division and county administration to analyze needs, projects and prioritization.   The staff committee recommendations were then sent to a joint committee of equal number of Supervisors and School Board Members to review the recommendations.

 

In August of 2017 both boards adopted the CIP process unanimously.    In November of 2017 the two boards held the joint CIP committee meetings and discussed the projects.   There was concern expressed by various members of both boards about various projects.  Three projects of particular note were the new courthouse and whether it would be planned for the full $70 million replacement cost, or if it would be built in phases.   A second project that created discussion was the rebuild of renovation of Ferry Farm Elementary School.  And the final project of significant discussion was whether the School Board should move forward on purchasing the now vacant building owned by the Fredericksburg Christian School in north Stafford.   The FCS school building is proposed to be purchased to help add capacity to the school division and potentially house parts of the division’s preschool classrooms.

After three meetings the members of the joint committee came to a decision, with some information still pending to be collected and decided up on about the courthouse rebuild, to take the recommendation back to their respective boards and continue moving forward in the process.

Somewhere along the way wires got crossed and the process fell apart.  Both boards have now reverted back to the old way of developing the CIP and it appears to be ready to create strife between the boards once again.   The School Board considered and adopted their version of the CIP at their April 11 meeting.   They have adopted the following school division projects in the following order of priority: 1. Purchase and Renovate Fredericksburg Christian School building, 2. Renovate Ferry Farm Elementary School 3. Build High School #6 4. Rebuild Hartwood Elementary School 5. Build Elementary School #18

The sole vote against the CIP was cast by Aquia District School Board member Irene Egan, who has long advocated and supported the development of the new CIP process, citing her reason for voting “no” was due the CIP not being developed within the guidelines of the newly adopted CIP process.

The CIP is now in the court of the Board of Supervisor.  They will need to decide how to work the School Board’s priorities into those of the county and may or may not accept the priorities as the School Board has sent them over to the BOS.

Strategy and Priorities

A well-managed modern organization should have a well developed Strategic Plan with clearly defined priorities and strategies to inform leadership and the organization’s stake-holders of where it is going and how it going to get there.

In this year’s budget battle there has been a lot of questions about priorities.  In particular members of the Board of Supervisors questioning what the priorities of the School Board are and how they are reflected within the school divisions funding request.   Supervisor Shelton in particular asked the School Board about priorities during the March  20th joint hearing.

However, as members of the School Board pointed out to the Supervisors, the board annually adopts budget goals and priorities and they are printed within the budget book provided to Supervisors.   Furthermore, a quick search of the school division’s website the SCPS 2017-2022 Strategic Plan can be found.   The Strategic Plan clearly lays out the strategy and priorities of the division and School Board.

A particular issue of concern for recently appointed Supervisor from the George Washington District, Tom Coen is the expense of a professional development opportunity for county teachers – the Teaching and Learning Summit.  In questions Coen forwarded to the Superintendent after the joint hearing he indicated scrapping the Teaching and Learning Summit could reduce school division costs by $400,000.  Coen has been critical of the division provided professional development opportunity in other pubic settings as well.

However, the School Board has clearly made the professional development opportunity a priority that it desires to provide to school division employees.  In the FY17 budget the School Board included the following in the budget priorities for that year “Provide additional funding for professional development”, in FY 18 the following priorities were presented by the School Board in their adopted budgets “Fund professional development program for all SCPS staff to enhance skills”, “Fund phased computer initiative for teachers and staff to assist in classroom skills.”

Furthermore within the SCPS Strategic Plan the School Board also identifies professional development as a priority.  In Board Priority 1.1 of the SCPS Strategic Plan the School Board makes this statement “Provide professional learning opportunities to expand capacity of staff to support students developing critical thinking, creativity, citizenship, communication and collaboration skills, and wellness across content areas,” and in Board Priority 2.3 “Expand professional growth opportunities for all employees.”

The School Board’s budget priorities and Strategic Plan further detail their priority on staff compensation and student achievement.   The Strategic Plan identifies what the division values and where the School Board would like to drive the division.

So where is the county and the Board of Supervisor with their priorities and Strategic Planning?   If you Google “Stafford County Strategic Plan” you get results that lead you to a couple of documents and plans that inform you about the direction of the county.   However, there is no one Strategic Plan for the county.

A web page titled “Board Priorities for the Community” is undated, but appears to have been written in 2013.  The page references the 350 anniversary of Stafford County, the renovation of Grafton Elementary School and an economic development plan to attract data centers to the county.

The strategic direction of the county is contained in multiple documents, including the Comprehensive Plan, the BOS Financial Policies, and the Economic Development Strategic Plan.  All of the documents and plans that feed the strategy are detailed in this table.

The county severely lacks a well defined strategic plan and vision for the future.   Furthermore there are no discernible measures for success to enable residents of the county to determine if the county’s leadership strategy is meeting the goals of the county or not.

 

Budget Public Hearing – Spring Break Style

The Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on Tuesday April 3rd to hear from the public on the FY19 Budget and the advertised tax rate of $.99.   Unfortunately the Supervisors scheduled the public hearing during Stafford County Public Schools Spring Break.   Many families take advantage of the week off of school to get away and vacation with their family.   Holding a public hearing on such and important topic during a period of time that many county residents are unable to attend is a trigger of concern of transparency.

Board members addressed the concerns that were raised by speakers about the public hearing being held during SCPS’ break.   Supervisor Wendy Maurer stated the scheduling of the meeting was not by designed and continued to state “we have a very strict calendar in order to get our bills out.”   During their March 6 meeting the Supervisors discussed the timeline for setting the tax rate and the concerns of both the Commissioner of Revenue and County Treasurer for completing their work related to tax bills and collection of taxes.

However, the Board ultimately has flexibility on when they can hold meetings, hearings and adopt the tax rate.   Furthermore the county’s budget schedule is often predicated on the Board of Supervisors receiving the School Board’s funding request.   This year the School Board was preparing for presenting their funding request on March 6, but it was delayed by the Board of Supervisors until March 20th.

In September of 2017 the School Board adopted a budget calendar that set March 6th as the target for the School Board to present their funding request to the Board of Supervisors.   The Board of Supervisors adopts a similar budget calendar, however this year the goals of having the School Board’s funding request presented by early March was not met.  Had the board worked together to ensure the funding request was to the Supervisors by the March 6th date the public hearing would have had greater opportunity to have been held on a date other than during Spring Break.

In a previous post we detailed the ideal schedule for the county’s and School Board’s budgets.   Over the years, there has been a lack of communication between the two boards in the time leading up to the budget to ensure both boards are on the same schedule and all conflicting dates are clearly identified.

To see a larger image click here.

Both boards should take note now that Spring Break next year is April 15-19.  It will be helpful to the community if no meetings of significant importance are scheduled during that week.

To see a larger version of the calendar click here.

At the public hearing the Supervisors did hear from several folks expressing their concerns about school funding and other needs.  From Fredericksburg.com

Stafford County residents urge more funding for schools

Budget Battle in Stafford County, again

It’s Spring and here in Stafford County that can mean only one thing . . .budget battle.   This year’s battle of the budgets between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board is shaping up to be one for the ages.

First a quick primer on how the budget process in Stafford County is supposed to work.  Stafford County Public Schools is an independent entity from Stafford County Government, and it is governed by the 7 member elected School Board.   The school division receives funding from a variety of sources from all levels of government, however funding from the local government makes up about 50% of the revenue side of the budget.   Local funding is appropriated by the Board of Supervisors through the county budget development process.  Roughly 50% of taxes collected by the Board of Supervisors is appropriated to the School Division each year.

The School Board develops its own budget, which they ideally present to the Board of Supervisors in March as the Supervisors are working on the county’s budget and setting the tax rate.   Below is a graphic to show the process by which each entity develops their budgets.

Click here to see larger image.

 

The cost of education, like many things today, continues to rise and the School Board’s budget reflects that.  This year the budget request by the School Board is roughly $17 million more than last year’s funded budget with a $13 million dollar funding gap the School Board is asking the Board of Supervisors to fund.   Items included in the School Board’s funding request include additional teachers to meet the demands of a growing population, additional Special Education teachers to meet the needs of a growing special education student population and a 2.5% salary increase for all school division employees.

As they have in the past, the School Board provided the Board of Supervisors with the list of items that they are seeking to increase funding and the items that are required by state or other mandate to fund.  The mandated expenditures are $5.4 million to ensure schools are staffed and supplied to meet federal, state and local standards.  The other signifcant cost driver in the budget is a 2.5% COLA for all school division employees.  That cost is $5.2 million.  Those two items alone account for over 50% of the budget increase.

Click here to see a larger image.

The request is being met with hesitation by the Board of Supervisors.   While members of the Board of Supervisors have indicated their support for the proposed 2.5% salary increase included in the School Board’s budget, they have expressed concerns that the raises may not get to the teachers when the School Board adopts their final budget.

The Board of Supervisors and the School Board held a joint work session to discuss the budgets on Tuesday March 20th.   Members of the Board of Supervisors had several questions for the School Board and their budget proposal.   However, several Supervisors asked questions that appeared to be digging for improprieties buried in the schools’ budget.

Aquia Supervisor Cindy Shelton went on a quest asking why some technology supervisor positions had been moved around from last year’s budget, to which she was provided answers by School Board members on how priorities are set and SCPS CFO Chris Fulmer on how the changes were due to a newly implemented financial tracking software and using position control features within it.  He further explained that the moves did not result in any increase to positions or costs.

Shelton also asked about priories to which several members of the School Board replied with how the Board adopts priorities and they are reflected in the budget.

George Washington District Supervisor Tom Coen dug in further with questions about Administrative Assistant’s pay and compensation studies.   Superintendent Bruce Benson and members of the School Board replied with the priorities the School Board has had several years to bring all school division employees salaries inline the market.   The School Board also rebuked Coen’s assertion that they board had recently paid for several compensation studies.  The last compensation study for Administrative Assistants was in 2006 and more recent compensation studies for teacher and other employees were done internally and not contracted to outside firms.

Coen also inquired about positions advertised on the SCPS website and new positions of need identified in the school’s budget request.   Coen appeared to confuse positions currently funded, job requisition postings, and positions in the budget request to meet growth needs.   Some positions advertised on the SCPS website are positions that the division has had difficulty filling due to certification and license requirements, however they also keep many position requisitions open that are high demand positions that they know they will need to fill.   Positions in the budget request are not yet funded and not yet advertised on the SCPS website.

Falmouth Supervisor Meg Bohmke inquired about a statement of zero-based budgeting and expenditures at elementary schools.    Benson provided Bohmke the answer on school funding and why school expenditures differ from school to school.

 

Late in the meeting Garrisonville Supervisor Mark Dudenhefer questioned the market based teacher salary scale with a what appeared to be an indication that the School Board should look at capping salaries for experienced teachers high on the scale.   However, as Benson responded to Dudenhefer’s concerns, the salary scale will correct itself as the School Board invests in the lower end of the scale, continue to provide all teachers a COLA and other jurisdictions that pay senior teachers less bring their scales up – which has been the recent trends.

The meeting wrapped up with discussion about school security  and action both boards have taken.   Despite Griffis-Widewater Supervisor Jack Cavalier having gone to the School Board at a recent meeting and asking them for input on what they need to improve school security, he and Dudenhefer appeared upset that the School Board had adopted a resolution asking the Board of Supervisors to fund a School Resource Officer (SRO) at every school.   It also appears in retribution to the School Board’s action the Supervisors have taken it upon themselves to direct the Sheriff to form a task force that has excluded school division officials to discuss and develop recommendations for school security.   The task force headed by Sheriff Decatur has been tasked to report to the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee, which meets “as required”, on Tuesday’s before the Board of Supervisors’ afternoon meetings.

 

COMING SOON: A look inside the County’s FY19 Proposed Budget

BOS Sets Tax Rate to Be Advertised

The Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution to advertise the 2018 real estate tax rate at $0.99 per $100 of assessed value.   That figure is what the current tax rate is.  With 2018 being a reassessment year for real estate many in the county found their homes assessed at a greater value than last year.   If the tax rate is adopted as advertised at $0.99 the average tax bill will increase this year.

The Board of Supervisors received a presentation on the School Board’s budget and then held a joint work session with the School Board to discuss the School  Board’s budget request.  The School Board had a $13 million funding gap before any local funds are transferred to the school division.

The Board of Supervisors appear to be ready to increase local funding to the school division to help improve teacher pay, hire additional teachers to accommodate for student population growth and hire more special education and English as a Second Language teachers.  Both boards are also concerned about school safety and desire assurances that everything that can be done is being done to ensure Stafford County Public Schools are safe.

The tax rate will be advertised for 30 days.   The public can comment on the tax rate at public meetings of the Board of Supervisors or contact their member of the Board of Supervisors by phone or email.  In 30 days the Board of Supervisors will adopt the tax rate and at that time they can adopt the tax rate as advertised or can reduce it.

Mark your calendar

Stafford Growing Pains has a great rundown of upcoming meetings this week.  The rundown of the Board of Supervisors’ Finance and Budget Committee and joint work session with the School Board outlines the challenges the boards face this year.

Some trivia about the Stafford County FY19 Budget:

  • The Budget Book is 448 pages long! Ugh
  • There’s a proposed 2% raise for most County employees. (School employees are considered within the School Board budget.)
  • The Public Safety budget (Sheriff’s office and Fire & Rescue) and the Social Services budget receive “catch up” funds to help them hire new employees to deal with increased workload caused by population growth.
  • Sports Tourism is an important element in our “Positioning for the Future” strategic investment.

The County budget was prepared prior to receiving the School Board’s funding request. In order to balance revenues and expenditures the School transfer increase was calculated at $3.27 million. The SB’s funding request asks for an increase of $12.43 million. The SB will present its budget to the BoS at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday with a joint work session immediately following the presentation. Both of these sessions are listen-only meetings for the public.

As Stafford Growing Pains reports, the meeting in which the School Board presents their budget is a “listen-only” meeting and the public will not have ability to comment on the School Board budget to the Board of Supervisors until their meeting at 7 P.M.  The Board of Supervisors has no specific agenda item on their 7 P.M. meeting regarding the School Board’s budget request.  In years past the School Board was able to present their budget in the 7 P.M. session of the Board of Supervisors, enabling more of the public to be able to attend the meeting, hear the presentation, hear the questions that the Supervisors ask of the School Board, and then be able to provide comment and input immediately within the meeting.  Questions of transparency can arise when the Board of Supervisors elect to conduct business of significant public interest in committee and during hours when much of the public is not able to view or attend.

The first item on the Board of Supervisors agenda in their 7 P.M. session is consideration of resolutions to authorize the County Administrator to advertise a proposed tax rate.   At this point the Board will consider advertising the tax rate at the County Administrator’s proposed rate of $0.965 or adjusting the advertised rate up or down.   The advertised rate is the rate that will be published and considered for adoption at a future meeting.   When the Board considers final adoption of the tax rate they can lower the rate from what was advertised but can not increase it.

The tax rate was initially on the Board’s agenda and brief discussion was held regarding it at their March 6 meeting.

The process in which the Board is considering the advertised rate could be cause for concern of transparency.   The agenda item, while in the 7 P.M. session of the Board and more members of the public can attend and/or watch on television, is not being done as a public hearing.  The public will not be able to comment after the County Administrator presents the proposed resolution and the members of the Board provide their comments and questions.   If members of the pubic wish to provide input on the advertised tax rate they will need to do so during Public Comment which at the top of the Board’s agenda at 7 P.M.

OPINION EDITORIAL: School Safety Begins Before Armed Guards

With the tragedy that occurred in Parkland, Florida the nation is in a national conversation about school safety .   There have been discussions that have ranged from banning certain types of guns to arming teachers in our schools.   The discussion has reached the local level where, here in Stafford County, the Sheriff’s office, at the urging of the Board of Supervisors and cooperation of the School Board has created a task force to analyze and produce recommendations to improve school safety in Stafford County Public Schools.

Stafford County Public Schools have made a number of safety improvements over the last several years to include controlled entry into schools through AirPhone devices and locked off vestibules.   The Sheriff’s office has a School Resource Officer program that dedicates a Sheriff’s deputy to high schools and middle schools.  There are also school division security guards at several schools.  Stafford County Public Schools and Stafford County have done a good job in being attentive to school security, and with the new attention to school security a good analysis and new resources will only make security in our schools stronger.

The national conversation has taken to the direction of more armed guards, allowing trained teachers to be armed in the schools and more attention to mental health.  Stafford County Forum is encouraged by the discussions, however we do have concerns with some of the proposals.  While there are teachers willing receive training and are fully capable of obtaining concealed carry permits and could certainly provide additional firepower to stop a potential school shooter this should remain a last resort.   Expanding SRO presence to ensure there is at least one dedicated SRO in every high and middle school, advocating the General Assembly to expand the ability to have armed security guards in school buildings and continuous improvement to physical building security should be the first steps taken.

However, physical security is the last step in the process of stopping a school-aged shooter.   The path taken by the Columbine shooters, the Sandy Hook shooter, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooter to get them to the point of picking up a weapon against their peers likely started due to a lack of resources throughout their years in school.

There has been a quite a bit of discussion about the role of family and the fact that many mass shooters come from broken homes with no father present.   While those statistics do reveal truth, we have taken a direction in this country that we rely heavily on the public school system to fill-in where the parent drops off.   If we are going to be successful in this model we need to have the resources to ensure success.

Stafford County and Stafford County Public Schools, like other jurisdictions, have room for improvement in school security; and improvements that should be made.  However, those improvements should not come at the cost of necessary resources to ensure schools can reach every child and ensure none fall through the cracks and head down the path that ends in tragedy.

For example in the School Board’s budget request there is requested funding for Diagnosticians in all of our elementary schools.  Diagnosticians attend to various special education, IEPs and various other needs of students that need additional attention to be successful.   The work of Diagnosticians in many of our elementary schools is currently being done by Assistant Principals.  In addition to supporting the Principal, and doing the other work that Assistant Principals do, one of their important tasks is building relationships with students.  Enabling AP’s to have a few more minutes to build those relationships with all students, including finding that child that eats alone everyday and is just aching for someone to reach out to him, would go a long way to help ensure schools remain a safe location for everyone.

Furthermore, there is additional funding requested to improve a number of items related to mental health and student success that need to be funding.  It can’t go without saying even improving teacher pay is a safety issue.   Enabling teachers to be paid so that they do not have to rely on second jobs can help ensure they have extra time to spend with students after the school day.  Proper funding of everything we demand of our public schools can help ensure no child falls between the cracks.

In short, to improve school security arm the teachers!  That’s right! Arm the teachers, arm them with the resources necessary to ensure our schools are safe.  Arm them with resources to ensure they can have full commitment to the children in their classroom.  Arm them with resources to know no child will fall between the cracks and head down the path that ends with dead children in our school hallways.

Dive into the numbers

Public budgets are fairly simple documents when done right.   When government wants to skip transparency it is also fairly easy for public bodies to obfuscate information for public digestion.

To the County Administrator’s credit when he presented his proposed budget to the Board of Supervisors, while one slide indicated a $6.36 increase to education funding, he did have a slide that detailed the breakdown of the funding and did point out that nearly half of that money was going towards Public Day School funding and would not be money to be spent at the discretion of the School Board.

Stafford Growing Pains has been doing an analysis and following the education funding in the County Administrator’s proposed budget in great detail.

With regards to the public day school funding SGP says:

The funds for Private Day School placements are required by law to come from the County budget not the School Budget. Therefore, the $2.69 million identified for Private Day School will NOT be transferred to the School Board.

— The proposed budget includes $285,000 to create a Public Day School classroom in one of our public schools. This project is intended to group up to 6 students who would otherwise need to a Private Day School placement, 

Stafford Growing Pains will continue following the budget process and has a keen interest in education funding in the county.

For the Board of Supervisors their work is just beginning on the budget.  They will continue to have work sessions and meetings as they continue to develop the final FY19 budget for Stafford County.  The topic of education funding and the funding of Public and Private Day School will continue to be a hot topic in those discussions.