Christina Pitsenberger, food service director for Albemarle County Public Schools, spoke at the county School Board’s work session on Tuesday. Credit: Credit: Josh Mandell, Collectbritain

The Albemarle County School Board on Tuesday received no public comments at a hearing on Superintendent Pam Moran’s $188.1 million funding request for 2018-2019.

However, the school division recorded more than 2,200 responses to its annual budget survey and has received hundreds of emails from teachers advocating for higher pay.

“I don’t think people are not paying attention [to the budget],” said School Board Chairwoman Kate Acuff.

Support for competitive salaries to attract and retain high-quality teachers was the top-ranked priority in the budget survey for the 2018-2019 academic year. Moran said about 16 new teaching positions would be needed to accommodate the 249 additional students projected to attend the county schools next year.

Moran’s funding request includes $1.53 million for a 2 percent compensation increase for teachers, and an additional $1.53 million to restructure the pay scale for teachers such that salaries will increase at a constant rate for each additional year of experience.

However, shifting to the new pay scale in a single year would make teachers’ salary increases for next year vary widely.

In a presentation to the School Board in October, Finance Director Jackson Zimmerman said teachers with 12 years of seniority would see their salary increase by 5.37 percent next year. First-year teachers and those with 31-plus years of seniority would get a 2 percent increase.

“After this year, what we do [for annual raises] will be more transparent,” Acuff said.

Moran also has requested an average raise of 2 percent for classified staff. An additional $350,000 in the spending plan would extend health insurance coverage to most part-time employees.

Moran’s funding request for the 2019 fiscal year is a $7.58 million, or 4.2 percent, increase over the current year’s $180.5 million budget.

Rosalyn Schmitt, director of planning and budget for the county schools, said updated revenue calculations have brought the request’s funding gap to $1.23 million, down from $1.26 million when it was first presented on Jan. 18.

“The budget that we put forward next week will not be balanced, and will probably not be balanced until April,” said School Board member Jonno Alcaro.

“We are all in agreement that [division staff] have done a great job preparing the budget,” Acuff said. “We hope that revenue gap that we see will go away, or we will make adjustments when we have to.”

About $2.03 million of the proposed spending increase would go towards advancing Albemarle’s strategic priorities, such as its High School 2022 initiative.

Moran’s funding request for 2018-2019 includes $607,000 to pilot a small center dedicated to project-based learning for high school students, and $378,270 to implement a mandatory seminar to enhance ninth-graders’ academic preparedness.

The request also includes $160,000 bring full-time Region Ten mental health counselors to all three of the county’s comprehensive high schools.

Moran has proposed spending $200,000 to eliminate all student fees for classes and another $190,000 for a new bus system to shuttle high school students to a specialized academy program at a school they are not districted to attend.

On Tuesday, the School Board moved to cancel a budget work session that was tentatively scheduled for Feb. 6. The School Board is scheduled to adopt a budget request Feb. 13.

“We are tweaking Dr. Moran’s funding request before sending it to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, so they can work on their budget based on our best estimates,” Acuff said.

The county schools’ initiatives budgeted for next year will be overseen by current Deputy Superintendent Matt Haas, who will replace Moran as superintendent July 1.

Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.