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Chesterfield Schools Superintendent Budget Calls For Teacher Raises And More County Funding

Superintendent Daugherty says that over the past decade Chesterfield schools have been underfunded. He is asking for an almost $100 million increase in funding for the 2021 school year to help cover the resources he says are needed to serve the 1200 additional students expected to projected to enroll next year.

“This proposed 14.7% increase in our operating budget is not a wish list. It’s the cost of doing business in 2020,” he said. “It’s not about growing the district office. It’s about meeting the needs of a growth spurt we’re having.”

After the Great Recession began in 2007, state funding for education dropped throughout Virginia. As of 2017, state funding was still 10% below 2007 numbers, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

Daugherty said he’s presenting a “needs-based budget” based on what the county asked him to provide. 

In his budget request released to the media and posted online, he states warning signs that are causing concern, such as a slip in student academic performance, increasing needs for mental health resources and the loss of staff who are leaving for higher paying jobs. 

Daugherty said that if the financial needs aren’t met “our children will suffer if we do not act now.” He added that the increase will provide “historic levels” of support for teachers and cover the “actual costs of day-to-day operations.”

To help pay for the increase, Daugherty is expecting about $31 million in new revenue funding from the state, as well as over $24 million in new funding from Chesterfield County and $6 million in leftover funds. Daugherty says the county has seen an increase in real estate revenue and has the capacity to increase local funding. 

“We have to work together to come up with a solution to resolve this. We cannot do it alone. We are not the ones who set the tax rate or even provide the funding. We get the funding from the Board of Supervisors,” he said.

Daugherty’s report states that there will be an almost $40 million gap between his budget and projected revenues. In his media briefing, Daugherty also said that the district will be getting $4 million less from the state following a new assessment of real estate tax revenue. 

If the state used last year's assessment model, Chesterfield would see approximately $35 million more in overall funding. But with the new assessment model, Chesterfield will see about $31 million more in overall funding, leaving a $4 million shortfall from their earlier projections.

 Virginia Department of Education Spokesperson Charles Pyle would not confirm whether or not the district is getting $4 million less under the new assessment compared to the prior one. 

 “We’re not going to fact check a district superintendent,” he told VPM by phone when asked whether Daugherty’s statement was accurate. 

The Chesterfield School Board’s overall budget request is almost $800 million dollars, including raises for teachers and bus drivers. 

The budget now goes to the school board, who will be holding work sessions over the coming weeks.

Editor’s Note: In VPM’s on-air news story, we did not include the overall increase in state funding for 2021. This web article includes details on the overall increase, using both the new and previous assessment models to clarify Merv Daughtery’s statement that the county is receiving “$4 million less” in state funding.

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Ian M. Stewart previously was the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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