By: Meredith Baker | Twitter: @DinwiddieMonitr
Posted: February 24, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
Employee compensation top priorities in Weston’s budget
DINWIDDIE – The school division budget proposed by Superintendent Dr. Kari Weston includes $46.5 million in operating funds, a 5.6 percent increase over the current year. That amount does not include money in the school nutrition, debt service, grants, capital projects, or textbook funds.
The proposed budget depends on $653,089 additional funding from the county and $1.8 million additional funding from the state compared to the current year, though the School Board has not officially requested that amount from the county, and state funding is still undetermined.
Weston said $1.6 million of the additional funding is for employee compensation and benefits, and she said that the number one factor contributing to student achievement is the teacher.
“The person that matters most is whose standing in that classroom, and the second person that’s the most important when it comes to continuous improvement in schools is the school principal,” Weston said, “so we’ve got to make certain that in Dinwiddie County we can not only attract the best, but we can keep the best, because we know that smart people can work anywhere.”
Weston’s proposal raises the entire teacher salary scale so that the starting salary changes from $43,000 to $44,500, moves teachers up a step on the salary scale, and includes a two percent raise for all other staff. If put into effect, those changes will give teachers between a 4.1 and a 5.5 percent raise, which Weston said she expects to be the largest raise given in the region.
According to information compiled by the Virginia Education Association, Dinwiddie County’s starting salary ranks 38th out of 130 school divisions in the state but ranks 11th out of the 15 school divisions in Region 1. Dinwiddie is in the southwestern corner of that region, which does not include the neighboring counties of Greensville, Brunswick, Nottoway, or Amelia, where starting salaries range from $39,011 to $41,915. The starting salary in Region 1 ranges from $41,350 in Sussex County to $47,915 in Surry. Weston is trying to move the division’s Region 1 rank closer to the top.
“We’ve got to do better, and we can do better, so this budget is really a lot about teachers and what we need to do for our teachers,” Weston said.
Weston said the budget includes 641 positions. New positions include an assessment and data coordinator, three reading specialists, two school security officers, additional teachers to reduce the size of some classes, and a special education teacher.
The budget also includes funding to add a preschool class at Sunnyside Elementary. Athletics has also been given a share of the budget to pay for expenses such as referee costs.
School board members would also be getting a raise under the proposed budget, from $5,000 to $6,000 annually, with an additional stipend of $1,200 for the chair, instead of $120. Weston said those changes can only be enacted in an election year so that the board will be granting the raise for a future board. The budget also anticipates a $400,000 increase for health insurance.