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Chesterfield Schools Working on $23 Million Funding Gap

People working on computers around a table
From a pre-pandemic work session: Superintendent Merv Daugherty, School Chair Debbie Bailey and Board of Supervisors Chair Leslie Haley (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

The Chesterfield School Board is grappling with ways to close a $23 million funding gap in next year’s budget. The fissure is due to lowered forecasted revenue streams from both the state and county, which are down because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

In a budget work session Tuesday, Deputy Superintendent Thomas Taylor said the stream of sales tax revenue is uncertain and that any money from the State Lottery is also projected to be lower. 

“There are no surprises in the fact that sales tax revenue is most certainly down. Despite the fact that we have an uncertain estimate as to how much we think sales tax revenue will be down and how that will impact the school division in this fiscal year and next,” Taylor said. “We do have a projection of around $20 million in this current year’s budget where we have been targeting ways that we can reduce some of our operational expenses.” 

The district provided a breakdown of the numbers, to highlight the overall increase in the budget despite the reduction: 

  • School Board adopted FY2021 operating budget: $726,971,554
  • Superintendent’s proposed revision for FY2021: $703,661,714

    • Proposed $23.3 million reduction in adopted FY2021 operating budget
    • $26 million increase over FY2020 operating budget

Some items cut from the budget include the two-percent salary increase for all staff and a pay raise for bus drivers. They’re also putting a hold on hiring new staff, like school counselors and ESL teachers.

At the work session, Taylor said some of the ways they are trying to reduce the current budget needs are by furloughing temporary and substitute teachers, putting a freeze on hiring non-essential personnel, and eliminating any overtime pay. He also added the district is saving money on fuel costs, since buses are not running. 

In regards to buses, Director of Transportation Calvin Frye told the board that when possible, the district should create 35 floater bus positions to help alleviate bus driver shortages when schools are able to reopen. 

Board member Kathryn Haines asked if the proposed and approved pay raises for bus drivers should be included on the revised budget. 

“I think at this point, with all employees not getting a raise, I’m not sure that it would be appropriate to single out drivers to get a raise,” Frye said. “I must say it pains me to say that, it really does, because I want to support our drivers. But I do know that we are team Chesterfield and that we’re going in this together.”

 Frye said that they have had an uptick in bus driver applications and that to also help fill positions, current school staff, such as coaches, should take CDL driver tests. 

Despite the reductions, the proposed budget is still $26 million more than the funding approved last year for the school district. And Taylor said there is some new money coming in, in the form of $5.2 million in federal aid from the CARES Act as well as some state emergency aid, though that figure was not disclosed.

The school board will vote on the revised budget at their May 12 meeting, which will be live streamed.  Board Chair Debbie Bailey said that public comments on the proposed amended budget will also be read out loud. Bailey reminded her members that this is the second time in their short tenure as board members that they’ll be voting on a budget. The entire school board is new to their positions and were elected last November. 


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