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Citizens ask for increased school funds

Posted on Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm

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If the county ends up with unspent funds at the end of the fiscal year, citizens hope they go toward supporting education.

More than 100 people attended the March 26 meeting and roughly 24 weighed in on the county’s proposed budget for FY 2015, citing the importance of putting more money into teacher salaries, school buildings and enhancing technology.

Angela Downer, president of Hanover Professional Educators, said the 2 percent proposed merit salary increase for employees, included in the school board’s recently approved budget, is not enough money to keep teachers from leaving and compensate them for their work. Downer reminded the board that many instructors are single parents and have to find other work to make ends meet.

“Large numbers [of teachers] are working a second job so they can continue to do what they really love — educating Hanover’s children,” Downer said.

Downer said the organization believes the education budget is moving in the right direction, but more funds need to be allocated for raises so the school system can retain its educators.

South Anna Supervisor Wayne T. Hazzard

South Anna Supervisor Wayne T. Hazzard

Many citizens, who spoke up during the evening responded to Vice chairman and South Anna District Supervisor Wayne T. Hazzard’s recent suggestion for a two-cent real estate tax rate reduction.

He proposed the idea at the board’s March 12 meeting after county officials predicted Hanover could have a leftover fund balance of $43.6 million, which is money contained in county savings accounts.

But at last week’s public hearing, Hazzard said dropping the levy would not occur this year.

“We’re not talking about this year,” he said. “If it went into effect at all, it would be Jan. 1 of next year so that it follows the [FY] 15 budget.”

The money Hazzard and a few other supervisors were discussing was $7.76 million, which would roll over to the upcoming fiscal year and would not replenish itself. W. Canova Peterson, Mechanicsville District supervisor, reiterated last week, as to whether these funds should be used to address county needs or put back into the taxpayers’ pockets.

“I questioned whether or not it was good fiscal policy to maintain a rolling planned surplus,” Peterson said.

Many citizens expressed needs for technology upgrades. Janice Maino, a Hanover middle school teacher, expressed concerns about the school system’s technology and use of old versions of computer software and programs. Maino said that although she updated her classroom’s computers to Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows 7, many of the school’s machines have not been upgraded.

“We’re teaching students how to use computers that are outdated,” Maino said.

Another local teacher, Chris Pace, said his classroom computers and the facility’s computer labs use a 2003 Windows operating system.

“It needs to be updated and we need the funds to do that,” Pace said.

MaryAnne Pugh, a South Anna district resident, joined many others in listing educational needs, mentioning that teacher pay, technology improvements and laptops for teachers should be priorities. While Pugh said her speech’s main focus was on the school system, she said many other departments are also in need of more funding such as the Sheriff’s Office and Hanover Fire-EMS.

“These folks have been patient through the economic downturn, it’s time to reward their patience and meet their unmet needs,” Pugh said.

In the proposed spending plan, the public safety portion is increasing by $2.9 million compared to last year. The Sheriff’s Office would receive six new deputy positions and two more bailiffs.

The plan in consideration also calls for six additional career firefighters for Hanover Fire-EMS. Initially Hanover Fire-EMS requested eight cross-trained firefighters/medics and Col. David Hines, Hanover Sheriff, asked for 11 deputies.

Dr. Michelle Schmitt, Chickahominy District resident, commented on recent articles that reported the Hanover Fire-EMS and the Sheriff’s Office did not receive all the employees they initially requested in the proposed budget.

“Now there’s more to be had and needs are still not being met on the public safety front,” Schmitt said.

The board is expected to take action on the budget April 9.