U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) highlighted some of the ways in which the American Rescue Plan will help families, workers, small businesses and local governments across Virginia defeat COVID-19 and recover from the health and economic impacts of the virus.
Allocations projections for direct federal aid to Front Royal is $13.89 million and to Warren County is $7.79 million. Unclear the process the Department of Treasury will use in implementation.
“The American Rescue Plan will help us defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and put our nation on a clear path to rebuild from this crisis. Already, Virginians are seeing the benefits, with direct payments hitting bank accounts and much-needed funds going out to expand vaccine distribution, help schools reopen, and provide assistance to small businesses and local governments across Virginia,” said the Senators.
- The American Rescue Plan includes an additional round of economic impact payments for individuals making less than $80,000 and joint filers making less than $160,000
- More than 7 million people in Virginia are set to receive $9.32 billion in direct payments, helping them cover essential expenses like food, rent, and medical bills
Child Tax Credit:
- The American Rescue Plan makes the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and increases the credit amount from $2,000 to $3,000 per child age 6 to 17 (and $3,600 per child below the age of 6) for many families
- An estimated 1.5 million children across Virginia will benefit from the expanded child tax credit, including 249,000 children in the Commonwealth who are currently in poverty or deep poverty
Earned Income Tax Credit:
- 417,000 workers in Virginia will benefit from an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit
Enhanced Unemployment Benefits:
- The bill provides billions in additional federal relief for struggling Virginians – who are out of work through no fault of their own – by extending the historic unemployment insurance reforms established in the CARES Act, through September 6, 2021. The bill extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers and others in non-traditional employment, the $300 weekly federal enhancement in benefits, and the additional weeks of federal unemployment insurance for workers who exhaust their regular state benefits. 256,320 Virginians faced the possibility of losing benefits in March or April if the programs had not been extended
- To help Virginians afford child care and to help ensure child care providers can continue operating safely, the American Rescue Plan includes:
- $306 million for Virginia Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) programs
- $490 million for Virginia Child Care Stabilization Grants
- $16.557 million for Virginia Head Start programs
- An increase in the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children, and makes the credit fully refundable. This would significantly ease the burden of child care costs for many Virginia families, who pay on average $14,063 annually for infant care and $10,867 for the care of 4-year-olds
- $2.11 billion for Virginia K-12 schools: These flexible funds will support school districts in reopening safely for in-person instruction and addressing the many needs that students are facing due to the pandemic. A portion of the funds are targeted towards addressing learning loss, providing resources through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and implementing summer enrichment and afterschool programs
- $846 million for Virginia colleges & universities: Institutions must distribute half of their allocation to students in the form of financial aid awards to address hardships caused by COVID-19. The remaining portion of the funds can be used on reopening costs, revenue losses, classroom retrofits, PPE, and other expenses
- The legislation includes $160 billion for national vaccination and other health efforts, including testing, tracing, genomic sequencing, public health staffing, and supplies to slow the spread of COVID-19
- To expand access to affordable health care nationwide, the American Rescue Plan:
- Caps premium payments: The bill lowers or eliminates premium costs on the Affordable Care Act exchange to ensure every family can find a health care plan that’s affordable to them
- Provides uninsured workers with health care: 41,000 uninsured Virginians who rely on unemployment insurance are now eligible for advance premium tax credits to help pay for essential health benefits
- Ensures jobless Virginians can keep their employer-sponsored healthcare coverage: To help Virginians who have lost their job and associated employer-sponsored healthcare coverage, the American Rescue Plan provides a 100% reimbursement so that workers who have lost their job can keep their health care coverage through COBRA
- Expands guaranteed health care coverage for new moms: The American Rescue Plan improves maternal health care with a new provision that will allow state Medicaid programs to offer new moms health care coverage for up to one year post-partum
- COVID-19 has placed an enormous strain on our nation’s healthcare system. To address this, the American Rescue Plan includes:
- $8.5 billion to help struggling rural health care providers and ensure access to care in rural areas
- $7.66 billion dollars to support public health workers in communities across the country, who are the key to getting the virus under control
- $7.6 billion in direct financial support to Community Health Centers, providing immediate relief to frontline providers in community health centers who serve communities of color and underserved populations hardest-hit by pandemic
- To help struggling Virginians stay in their homes during the pandemic, the Commonwealth will receive $451 million for emergency rental assistance. An estimated 267,000 renters in Virginia are currently behind on their rent
- The American Rescue Plan also includes $9.9 billion to aid homeowners nationwide who are struggling to afford their mortgage payments, utility bills, and other housing costs. Virginia is expected to receive between $154 million and $276 million from this pot of money to help homeowners who have been financially stressed by the pandemic
- The legislation extends a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September 30, 2021, which will help the nearly 50 million Americans who have struggled with hunger during the pandemic. In Virginia, 503,000 adults – 9% of all adults in the state – report not having enough food to eat. This includes 308,000 adults living with children, or 15% of all adults living with children, who report that the children in their household do not have enough to eat
- The American Rescue Plan has billions to help small businesses keep their doors open, including:
- $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As of this month, Virginia businesses have received $3.5 billion in forgivable Second Draw PPP loans to keep workers on the payroll during COVID-19
- $15 billion for the Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Advance Program. As of last month, 74,664 Virginia businesses have received more than $4 billion in low-interest EIDL loans to help them survive the COVID-19 crisis
- $28.6 billion for a new Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide grants to help small local restaurants, bars, and craft breweries stay in business and keep their workers employed. To provide comprehensive support to local restaurants, grants from the fund can be used alongside first and second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance, and the Employee Retention Tax Credit
- $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program to support live entertainment venues, and a critical fix to ensure venue operators can access both PPP and SVOGs
- $10 billion in new funding for the State Small Business Credit Initiative to help small businesses grow and create jobs
Transportation & Public Transit
- To allow our frontline workers to travel to and from work and to ensure our transit systems are able to survive the pandemic and continue to serve commuters, the American Rescue Plan includes:
- $1.4 billion for transit systems in the DC metro region including WMATA
- $56 million for transit systems in Hampton Roads
- $6 million for transit in and around Blacksburg
- $342,115 for transit in and around Bristol (TN-VA)
- $5.3 million for transit in and around Charlottesville
- $817,426 for transit in and around Fredericksburg
- $884,390 for transit in and around Harrisonburg
- $542,634 for transit in and around Kingsport (TN-VA)
- $3.4 million for transit in and around Lynchburg
- $30 million for transit in and around Richmond
- $3.4 million for transit in and around Roanoke
- $219,506 for transit in and around Staunton-Waynesboro
- $3 million for transit in and around Williamsburg
- $241,677 for transit in and around Winchester
- To allow Virginia airports to weather the storm and to continue delivering crucial supplies to the Commonwealth, the American Rescue Plan includes funding for the following:
- $84 million for Washington Dulles International Airport
- $82 million for Ronald Reagan Washington National
- $18.5 million for Richmond International Airport
- $16.8 million for Norfolk International Airport
- $5 million for Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport
- $4.9 million for Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport/Woodrum Field
- $3.1 million for Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport
- $1.8 million for Lynchburg Regional Airport/Preston Glenn Field
- $1.1 million for Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport
- $148,000 for Leesburg Executive Airport
- $59,000 for Virginia Highlands Airport (Abingdon)
- $59,000 for Virginia Tech/Montgomery Executive Airport
- $59,000 for Culpeper Regional Airport
- $59,000 for Danville Regional Airport
- $59,000 New River Valley Airport (Dublin)
- $59,000 for Blue Ridge Airport (Martinsville)
- $59,000 for Chesapeake Regional Airport
- $59,000 for Hampton Roads Executive Airport
- $59,000 Richmond Executive-Chesterfield County Airport
- $59,000 for Hanover County Airport
- $59,000 for Warrenton-Fauquier Airport
- $59,000 for Winchester Regional Airport
- $32,000 for Franklin Regional Airport
- $32,000 for Front Royal-Warren County Airport
- $32,000 for Twin County Airport (Galax Hillsville)
- $32,000 for Louisa County Airport/Freeman Field
- $32,000 for Luray Caverns Airport
- $32,000 for Mountain Empire Airport (Marion/Wytheville)
- $32,000 for Accomack County Airport
- $32,000 for Orange County Airport
- $32,000 for Dinwiddie County Airport
- $32,000 for New Kent County Airport
- $32,000 for William M. Tuck Airport (South Boston)
- $32,000 for Mecklenburg-Brunswick Regional Airport
- $32,000 for Stafford Regional Airport
- $32,000 for Suffolk Executive Airport
- $32,000 for Tappahannock-Essex County Airport
- $32,000 for Middle Peninsula Regional Airport
- $22,000 for Emporia-Greensville Regional Airport
- $22,000 for Farmville Regional Airport
- $22,000 for Ingalls Field (Hot Springs)
- $22,000 for Lee County Airport
- $22,000 for Tazewell County Airport
- $22,000 for Tangier Island Airport
- $22,000 for Lonesome Pine Airport (Wise)
Aid to State & Local Governments
- The American Rescue Plan provides funds to state and local governments to assist with costs associated with responding to COVID-19, support workers performing essential work during COVID-19, cover revenue losses caused by the public health emergency, or to make necessary investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure
- The Commonwealth of Virginia will receive $3.766 billion in direct state fiscal relief
- Virginia’s counties will receive $1.655 billion, metropolitan cities will get $628 million, and smaller cities and towns will receive $604 million
- The Commonwealth of Virginia will also receive $222 million for building out broadband and other infrastructure projects
Lord Fairfax Health District offers multiple locations to obtain a free COVID vaccine
The Lord Fairfax Health District (LFHD), in collaboration with community partners, is pleased to offer several opportunities for COVID-19 vaccination over the next few weeks.
“We are delighted to offer several locations and venues to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Lord Fairfax Health District Director Colin Greene. “We need to continue our progress toward protecting our community through vaccination. Our intent is to provide a location where every person can receive a vaccine while feeling safe and comfortable.”
The clinics below will all offer Moderna vaccines to anyone 18 and older. You may come for your first or second shot at these locations. If it’s your second shot, you must have received Moderna for your first; please bring your vaccine card.
• Tuesday May 11, Frederick Douglass Park, Winchester, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This clinic is mostly booked, but it will have some room for walk-up vaccines while the clinic is operating.
• Wednesday, May 12, at the 15th Street Gym, 465 West 15th St., Front Royal, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments can be made at vaccineappointments.virginia.gov, but walk-ins will be accepted between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
• Thursday, May 13, at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds, 300 Fairgrounds Road, Woodstock, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Appointments are available at vaccineappointments.virginia.gov, but drive-ins will also be welcome.
• Wednesday, May 26, at the 15th Street Gym, 465 West 15th St., Front Royal, 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Appointments (vaccineappointments.virginia.gov) and walk-ins welcome.
High school students 16 and older, along with their families, will be offered opportunities to receive the Pfizer vaccine through their school districts. These clinics will not be offered to the general public, so interested persons should contact their schools for potential dates and times. Should the FDA approve in the next week, the Pfizer vaccine would become available for students age 12 and older.
Vaccination remains our most certain track out of this pandemic. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people with no serious side effects, and have been shown to be highly effective against all known strains of the COVID-19 virus.
If you have any questions, please call your local health department, or visit the LFHD website: www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/.
The Lord Fairfax Health District serves residents in the city of Winchester and Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah, and Warren counties. For more information, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/lord-fairfax/.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for May 10 – 14, 2021
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile marker 7 to 15, eastbound and westbound – Overnight mobile lane closures for pavement marking, 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. through May 9.
No lane closures reported.
Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) – Shoulder closures for tree removal operations between Criser Road (Front Royal) and Skyline Drive entrance, Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Route 340/522 (Winchester Road) – Overnight mobile lane closures for roadside weed control between Route 637 (Riverton Road) and Clarke County line, Monday to Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.
*NEW* Route 624 (Happy Creek Road) – Flagger traffic control for paving and drainage project between Route 645 (Manassas Run Road) and Front Royal town limits, May 10 – December 10 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at my.vdot.virginia.gov. Agents are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Humane Society welcomes new veterinarian to clinic team
The Humane Society of Warren County is pleased to welcome Dr. Alicia Pownall of Martinsburg, West Virginia to their HSWC Spay Clinic Team.
Dr. Pownall graduated Magna cum Laude from Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and will be joining the Humane Society of Warren County’s staff on June 14th. Dr. Pownall will lead the HSWC’s new project, the HSWC Spay Clinic, which is under renovation at 840-B John Marshall Highway and slated to open later this summer.
Dr. Pownall comes with valuable experience in a high-volume, high-quality spay and neuter clinic, and is enthusiastic to begin working to make a difference in our local community. She is Fear-Free Certified, and spent time traveling to rural Washington to the Native American Reserves setting up mobile clinics for wellness exams, vaccinations, and spay/neuter at no cost to the low-income area.
The HSWC Spay Clinic, Linda R. Lorber Campus will be a low-cost spay, neuter, and vaccine clinic available to our local community, as well as rescue and TNR groups. This undertaking is the next big step towards the animal shelter’s vision of living in a community where every pet is a wanted pet.
For more information, please contact Meghan Bowers at 540-635-4734 or by email at email@example.com.
Residents urge School Board against pandemic precautions
Mike Mayer of Front Royal, Va., wearing a head band but no mask, referred to the audience attending the Warren County School Board’s Wednesday, May 5 regular meeting as “fellow lowly commoners,” setting the tone for his subsequent contribution during the community participation portion of the meeting.
Mayer’s prepared statement, which he read aloud to the board members, took a meandering path to make a point, using language laced with insults that seemingly were meant to chastise local responses by Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) and the School Board, among others, to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — although Mayer never mentioned the words ‘COVID-19’ or ‘pandemic.’
The Pebble Lane resident started off by saying that while he should have participated earlier in a School Board meeting, it has gotten to the point “where sitting on the sidelines and complaining about it is no longer a viable option.”
Mayer continued: “For the last year, our children have been held hostage by teachers’ unions and elected officials at every level — most of whom have shown blatant disregard for the best interests of our children at every opportunity.
“This school year has been a joke, a sham, an embarrassment, and a slap in the face all rolled into one neat package,” he read. “The damage done to our children both in terms of their education and social growth will not be fully realized for years, but hopefully it is not too late to crawl out of our hole that we’ve dug ourselves into.”
Mayer acknowledged that area schools appear to be getting ready to start the next school year with a pre-pandemic schedule, “hopefully… minus the nonsensical plexiglass paneling, the dehumanizing and misery-inducing face coverings, weird markings on floors telling you where to be, social distancing, and everything else this year has introduced that has reduced our vibrant and enthusiastic children into something more closely resembling the sheep who have implemented these theatrics into our classrooms.”
Calling the required precautions taken to reduce the spread of the pandemic “symbols of compliance, conformity and submission,” Mayer said they’ve “done nothing quantifiable to improve the lives of our children.”
And he said people are getting fed up with it.
In fact, another community member sent in correspondence that was read aloud into the record during the meeting by Robert Ballentine, WCPS finance director and clerk of the School Board.
Specifically, Billy Robinson of Front Royal, who was unable to attend the meeting, wrote the letter to express his objections to WCPS continuing to make students wear masks outside during recess.
“I think I speak for many parents when I say that it is ridiculous for our children to wear masks while having to recess outside, especially now that the temperatures go past 80 degrees on a regular basis,” Robinson wrote. “Not only is this wrong, but I think it is child abuse.”
Robinson asked School Board members to let parents have the choice to decide whether their children wear a mask. “I ask that you please exercise some commonsense and get rid of the mask mandate for our children while having recess outside,” he wrote. “Please stop this madness.”
Mayer concluded by urging board members “to consider the path forward very carefully and with laser-focused clarity.”
“If you are not willing to take the best interests of our children as your top priority and only true focus,” he said, “we will remove you from your positions and vote in people who are willing to do so.
Appreciations also noted
Kim Oakland, a music teacher at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, also spoke during the community participation portion of the School Board’s meeting. In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, she expressed appreciation for teachers and other County employees, including the Warren County Board of Supervisors, which funds WCPS, and School Board members, whose tireless efforts helped hold together a school division that, like thousands of others across the nation, has been impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
“Regardless of what is on Facebook or other social media, you do put our children first,” Oakland told the board. “You can only do what the law and guidelines allow you to do.”
Oakland also reminded those in attendance that WCPS elementary students have been in school since the beginning of the pandemic, attending four days per week. “We all do the best that we can do,” she said. “It’s not just Teacher Appreciation Week. We teachers also appreciate all of you.”
WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger also acknowledged Teacher Appreciation Week during his report to the School Board and said that everyone has been through a lot during the current school year.
“I appreciate every single teacher that has been out there on the frontlines this year and making sure that our students are getting the best that they can under the circumstances that we are in,” said Ballenger, noting that teachers have “grown leaps and bounds this year,” with many having to try new ways to educate.
Ballenger also provided School Board members with an update on COVID-19 numbers in WCPS. He said that there are currently 19 active student cases, and 59 students are quarantined. There are also two active staff cases, and two staff members are quarantined.
On Wednesday, WCPS also offered a voluntary vaccination clinic at Skyline High School for students 16-years-old and up and their family members. More than 280 people signed up for the clinic, Ballenger said, adding that another clinic may be planned once new vaccines are approved and available for students ages 12 and up.
Rotary golf tourney May 27 raises funding for academic scholarships; openings still available for players but hurry!
Golfers with a predilection for procrastination – you have less than two days from the time this article is published in the Royal Examiner to register for a major local golf tournament at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club on May 27. DO IT NOW! Saturday, May 8 is the official cutoff date for entries.
One of the Rotary Club of Front Royal’s major fundraising events for more than two decades, money raised – $20,000 last year – goes into the club’s educational scholarship fund, benefiting outstanding graduating seniors at local high schools each spring. Four scholarship winners selected from this year’s school graduates, will receive their awards at Rotary’s May 14 meeting.
Tournament Chair Ken Evans said in a pamphlet publicizing the event: “The support of the community enables us to help Rotary causes each year. Without the support of generous individuals and businesses, it would be impossible for us to continue.”
The pamphlet indicates several individual sponsorships beneath the “Superhero Level – $1,000” may still be open for $100 and $200 each. Generally, entry fees are $300 per team ($75 per player) and include golf fees, cart, food and prizes.
Registration time on May 27 is 11:30 a.m. followed by lunch. The shotgun start is scheduled for 1 p.m. Awards will be presented around five hours later.
(Our reporter, Malcolm Barr Sr., is a member of the Rotary Club of Front Royal and serves on the scholarship committee.)
School Board approves $63.9M operating budget, new Skyline High School principal
The Warren County School Board on Wednesday, May 5 approved the 2021-2022 budget for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS), as well as the appointment of a new principal for Skyline High School.
During its first action agenda item, the School Board approved the appointment of Danelle Sperling, the principal at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School for the past five years, as the new principal at Skyline High School beginning on July 1. Sperling replaces Michael E. Smith, who had been Skyline High School’s principal since July 2015.
According to the Skyline High School website, Smith’s name, title, and pictures have been removed. The Royal Examiner today asked WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger to provide more details about when and why Smith left his position. Ballenger responded in an email that such information regards a personnel matter “and our policy and practice is not to discuss personnel matters.” And while it’s unclear when Smith left his position, Ballenger wrote in his email that “the admin leadership team continued to lead the school.”
On Wednesday night at the board meeting, Ballenger introduced and recommended Sperling’s appointment, telling the School Board that she “has a wealth of experience in and out of education and has served in various positions in Georgia, Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia.”
Sperling’s experience includes stints as an assistant high school principal, a middle school special education teacher and department chairwoman, music therapist, writer and editor for the U.S. Department of Defense, and group home and program manager, all of which “have provided her with the extensive preparation needed for this position,” Ballenger said during the meeting.
The superintendent added that Sperling is a dedicated community member, who has been a Warren County resident for 14 years, and her two children both attend Warren County Public Schools.
Following a motion by board member James Wells and a second by member Kristen Pence, the board voted unanimously to approve Sperling’s appointment, with Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., and board members Catherine Bower, Wells, and Pence voting aye. Board member Ralph Rinaldi was absent during the May 5 meeting.
“I have been truly, truly blessed for the last five years to work with the most amazing faculty, staff, students, and families” at Keyser Elementary School,” Sperling told the School Board members following their vote. “It is an experience for which I will forever be grateful.”
Sperling said she’s also grateful for the opportunity to help lead Skyline High School and “to continue to serve my community in this new role.”
WCPS now begins the search for Sperling’s replacement at Keyser Elementary.
The second action agenda item approved unanimously by the board, with Rinaldi absent, was the fiscal year (FY) 2021-2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors at its April 27 Special Meeting approved the FY 2022 County Budget, which included both the WCPS FY 2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the School Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The approved Operating Fund budget represents a reduction of $165,589 from the proposed FY 2022 School Operating Fund Budget that was adopted by the School Board at its February 17 meeting.
Reductions to the proposed budget totaling $165,589 were then made at the board’s April 7 meeting and the adjustments were included in the final recommended budget.
“A couple of things happened since then that we’re going to have to absorb within our current budget and we can do that with our staff turnover,” explained Ballenger prior to the board’s vote. In fact, WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith told the board that thus far, the division will have to fill 20 resignations and seven retirements.
The items WCPS will absorb, according to Ballenger, include a decision by Warren County supervisors to authorize the establishment of its own tech department. WCPS had been providing the County with one full-time and one part-time tech specialist. Now that the County will have its own three-person tech department, WCPS “will not receive that revenue,” Ballenger said, “so we will have to absorb that other part-time so that we can keep the one full-time employee.”
The other item relates to the Virginia State minimum wage, which is set to increase in January 2022. Ballenger said that WCPS decided to proactively implement the increase now. “We just felt that it was fair to our staff members who are in those positions,” he told board members. “It’s the right thing to do and it’s something that we can manage.”
The cost for WCPS to cover the minimum wage increase is around $27,000, Ballenger said.
In reviewing other budget highlights, Ballenger pointed to a 2-percent salary increase for teachers, plus a step. WCPS also adjusted the majority of its salary scales in the budget, he explained and placed all employees at their appropriate steps according to their years of experience.
However, there were several salary scales that did not get adjusted, such as those for maintenance journeymen, a maintenance bus driver, certain administrative personnel, and a social worker and psychologist, among others, according to Ballenger, who said their positions have been moved to the proper step for their years of experience.
Another benefit of the approved operating budget is that it “helps us in providing stability for our health insurance, so we’ll be able to take the savings from moving carriers to Aetna and put that in our account to help offset any increases we would see in future years,” he said.
WCPS will also add staff, including two activity drivers — who drive students home following practices, events, or other participation activities — one English language teacher, two gifted and talented teachers, one half-time criminal justice teacher, one history teacher, a special education assistant, a sign language interpreter, and one dual enrollment English teacher, said Ballenger.
The approved budget also includes a $100,000 increase for maintenance, he added, “so we can move from 40-percent scheduled maintenance to 60-percent scheduled maintenance. We want to schedule more of the work instead of always running around and trying to fix what’s broken. Let’s go ahead and get in front of this.”
Ballenger also said that previously approved federal COVID-19 relief funds will enable WCPS to complete HVAC renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary and at Blue Ridge Technical Center, both of which also need new roofs. The school district also wants to buy eight new buses, as well as new textbooks for science, English as a Second Lange, and foreign language, according to the budget.
Overall, the new final budget will enable WCPS “to attack all the things we want to attack and address this year,” Ballenger said.
“It’s really nice to see that we can take care of our community,” Board Chairman Williams commented after Ballenger’s presentation.
Approval followed a motion by board member Pence, a second by Vice Chairwoman Bower, with all members voting aye and Rinaldi absent. A copy of the final approved budget is available at: https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/warren/Board.nsf/files/C2QSWS71E353/$file/FY22%20final%20budget.pdf.
The School Board also unanimously approved 10 other action agenda items, including the purchase of elementary science textbooks totaling $236,747.75; an almost $160,000 contract for new Chromebooks for the 2021-2022 school year; a new preschool curriculum costing $33,349.73; and two contract awards to the Gordian Group, one in the amount of $56,969.36 to perform site work and to erect a newly purchased greenhouse at Skyline High School, the other for $22,427.21 to provide all labor and materials to prepare and paint the west side exterior windows and columns on the historic front entrance to Skyline Middle School.
School Board Vice-Chair Bower asked WCPS Technology Director Tim Grant if the approved purchase of the new laptops will fulfill the school division’s technology needs. Grant replied that the purchase of technology is always going to be a revolving door for WCPS, as it is in other districts.
To view the entire WCPS School Board meeting video, go to: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/120466.