CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — Chesterfield Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty presented his budget proposal for the 2022-2023 school year to the Chesterfield County School Board on Tuesday, calling on them to approve an $846 million package he said addressed key priorities for the school district.

The proposal is a nearly $90 million increase over last year’s budget, which topped out at $759 million.

According to Daugherty, some of that increase is simply to address the rising costs of necessary goods and services – but the proposal also includes investments in teacher pay, student services and school construction.

What’s in a Budget?

In addition to a baseline increase in teacher pay, Daugherty said the school system was working to address “salary compression,” where more experienced teachers aren’t paid that much more than their junior colleagues, leading them to seek positions in school divisions that pay more for a long resume.

“We are losing staff because of the salary structure,” Daugherty said.

But he also noted that they’ve seen success with their increases to bus driver pay, saying they’ve received fewer angry calls from parents over delayed bus routes since increasing pay to drivers.

“”If you pay people and appropriate salary and work with them,” Daugherty said. “You can fill positions.”

Chesterfield’s Chief Financial Officer told the board during the presentation of the budget on Tuesday that the school division has over 200 vacancies, which Daugherty said was unusually high.

The budget also includes money for new staff positions to keep up with an estimated increase of 1,500 students next year. Many of those students will be English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, who Daugherty noted require extra instructional support.

Finally, the budget includes $12 million to begin the construction process for two middle schools in the county, as well as address HVAC issues in several area schools.

Coming Up Short

There is, however, a $23 million catch: a budget deficit that must be addressed before the Board of Supervisors signs off on the budget.

Daugherty said that despite massive investments from the state and local governments, including a $46 million boost proposed by Governor Northam in his last budget before leaving office, there was still a shortfall if the county wants to meet its education goals.

“We’re not gonna run to the county” for a tax increase, he said, saying they would seek alternative state and local funding sources before moving on to cuts.

And the pay increases? Those will stay, one way or another.

“Our goal is to make sure we meet the salary efforts first,” Daugherty said.

Make Your Voice Heard

The School Board will host a series of town halls and public hearings before they sign off on the budget, at which parents and community members can voice their opinions on the proposed budget. Meetings will be held at the following times and locations:

  • Jan. 26, 6:30 p.m. – Thomas Dale High
  • Jan. 27, 6:30 p.m. – Matoaca High
  • Jan. 31, 6:30 p.m. – Meadowbrook High
  • Jan. 31, 6:30 p.m. – Greenfield Elementary
  • Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m. – Clover Hill High
  • Feb. 2, 6:30 p.m. – Robious Middle
  • Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m. – Cosby High
  • Feb. 7, 6:30 p.m. – Chalkley Elementary

Following those town halls, the board will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 in the public meeting room at 10001 Iron Bridge Road for a public hearing and consideration of the proposed budget.