Editorial: Budgeting wisely

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 10:49 am

It looks like the Hanover School Board can take a much-needed respite from the chopping block this year.

Besides, the budget ax’s blade was likely in need of some serious sharpening from the previous years’ deep cuts and the blacksmith’s budget had been zeroed out.

Superintendent Jamelle Wilson’s proposed budget reflects much of what education proponents in Hanover County have been calling for. For starters, the $170.7 million plan restores the 16 teacher positions cut last year, with a little room to spare.

Though the proposed budget is only a 5.3 percent increase over last year’s, it at least heads the school system in the right direction. More importantly, it takes into account the community’s input offered earlier in the budget process.

In addition to new teacher positions, the superintendent is asking for a 2 percent across-the-board salary increase for school employees. This gives us pause. Employees in the private sector are likely not receiving similar treatment, after all.

But, we recognize the need for Hanover to remain competitive in the metro-Richmond job market. A salary bump can help retain talent and showing that the school system is willing to invest in its personnel helps attract it in the first place.

On the capital projects side, the superintendent has proposed drastically scaling back spending in her proposed five-year plan. The school system had previously called for nearly $80 million of capital projects through fiscal year 2018; the proposed plan cuts that back to $24.7 million through 2019, with the bulk of spending going to busses, technology and HVAC upgrades. The remainder would be spent on a handful of small-scale renovations.

This is a departure. The current CIP called for $56.6 million of combined funding for renovations of Henry Clay, Battlefield Park, Washington Henry and Beaverdam elementary schools over fiscal years 2017 and 2018 and it’s doubtful the need for upgrades has diminished at these older facilities.

We would warn against nickel-and-diming when dollars are needed.

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