The Augusta County School Board is prepared to take an unbalanced 2013-14 budget to the Board of Supervisors, saying it is time to better pay teachers, address technology needs and perhaps raise real-estate taxes.
"I would guess we will go with an unbalanced budget,'' said School Board Chairman David Shiflett. He said it is "very critical that we provide the information to the public and the supervisors about what our financial situation is."
But at least one supervisor, North River's Marshall Pattie, seeks a more detailed strategic plan from county educators, saying there are too many empty seats in schools and buildings not properly utilized.
"We have overbuilt the capital side of the school system,'' said Pattie.
He said the overspending on the capital side is a cumulative mistake, not the fault of Superintendent Chuck Bishop, now in his third year on the job.
Pattie is cognizant of the need for more instructional and technology funding, but he said there should be a consideration of operations versus capital needs.
Boundary-line changes in eastern Augusta County approved last month by the School Board addressed the closing of Ladd Elementary at the end of this year, and make use of the newly renovated Wilson Elementary. Another committee is looking at changes in lines in western Augusta.
But the more immediate need is the upcoming budget. Shiflett said a revised teacher salary scale that would realign the steps in the scale would cost $11.1 million over five years.
Use of iPads and other current technology in the schools also is needed. Shiflett said a delegation from the Augusta County schools will visit Mooresville, N.C., later this year to see how that school district has used technology to enhance learning there.
"We may not get everything we want, but if we don't ask, we won't get it,'' Shiflett said of the school district's funding needs. He said that textbooks are dinosaurs, and that the salary-scale changes have to be done this year.
"This is a five-year plan to realign the salary steps,'' said Shiflett, who noted that the steps now vary from as little as someone getting a $50 increase to increases of $300.
Shiflett said a nickel increase in the real-estate tax rate would cost the owner of a county home about $80 a year in taxes but would raise $3.5 million in revenue.
"I can't think this would be an extreme hardship to the majority of the citizens in the county,'' he said. "I don't like tax increases, but we are living pretty cheap."
Support Our Schools, an advocacy group in Augusta County, has proposed a 10-cent increase in the real-estate tax rate. Individuals speaking at a recent public hearing on the county budget, however, pleaded with supervisors not to raise taxes, saying they can't afford more taxes.
Bishop and other school administrators will present more details on the school district's financial needs March 7. The 2013-14 budget is set to be approved by the School Board on March 21.