Thursday, February 23, 2017

We Have A Budget

The House and Senate reached a deal on the budget for the remainder of the 2016-18 biennium. The budgets from each body were very close going into Conference, so we didn’t anticipate huge changes. What is most interesting change is that the Conference Budget actually spends more on K-12 than all other budgets we have seen this session (Governor, House, or Senate) although the amount is very small.

As we expected, the Conference Budget did include language and funding for a 2% salary increase, but they lowered the appropriation amount by making it effective February 15, 2018. Also, as mentioned in this blog, school divisions can pull the money down if they have already given a raise. So limited funding, and school divisions can use it to back-fill. The budget does substantially beef up the supplemental lottery funding that will go to the school divisions with maximum flexibility, so school scan use that to fund pay raises as well. Of course to do that, they will need to make some tough decisions given the fiscal stress on the localities including the state-mandated VRS acceleration payment. 

The silver lining in this budget is that this is only the 3rd time in 10 years the state has funded any portion of their share of a salary increase for SOQ positions. It is also not tied to a revenue trigger, so the funding will not be rescinded. We must thank our legislators for that. They listened to us. But, it is a very small (state funding for 4.5 months for their share of SOQ funded positions) step. It doesn’t get us where we need be, but I am hopeful we are on the right path. Members of the House and Senate certainly seem focused on trying to do the right thing for public school funding, but we have dug quite a hole since 2008. But, with the passage of HB2332 on teacher salaries and the inclusion of a salary increase, I am hopeful we are carving out a path towards the newly adopted state goal of making teacher salaries in VA at or above the National Average.

As I already said, the budget also includes additional supplemental lottery funding that will be dispersed to the school divisions on a per pupil basis without a local match required. School divisions can use this funding for anything they choose including supplementing teacher salary increases. The conference budget increases the amount of the per pupil allotment which should help school divisions that have struggled to fund many K-12 expenses with mostly local funding.

Also in the compromise is an additional $7.3M for school divisions that have lost state funding through student population loss. School divisions that have lost 5% or more if their student population from 2011-2016 will receive this funding. This will be very helpful for some of our far southwest divisions and other divisions that have struggled to deal with lost state funding.

Later in the afternoon we received a detailed budget presentation that you can see by clicking on the link below. You can open the full presentation and scroll to K-12. You will also see a link to the school division distributions as calculated by the House Appropriations Staff. 

Thank you to our Cyber Lobbyists for all your work. Keep telling your stories, keep talking to your legislators, build a relationship with him or her during the off session, invite them to your schools, invite them to a meeting, make sure they are engaged all year long. They work for you.

Conference Budget Presentations