Vance County Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson says the VCS budget will consider an increase in classified staff compensation.
Q: Middle and high schools were consolidated a few years back and it seems like there was about a $2 million per year savings that was talked about at that time. As we head into the 21-22 budget year, what’s affecting your upcoming budget the most right now and what does your budget look like in terms of savings that you’re realizing from past consolidation?
A: As you can see, we’ve been able to expand programs. Our goal was the savings would be poured back into programming and so since that time, we’ve been able to launch our center for innovation, we’ve been able to launch our V3 Academy, we’ve been able to expand our athletic programs, we’ve been able to expand our fine arts programs, we’ve been able to lower some class sizes at our secondary schools and things like that…the things we promised, we’ve been able to refresh our technology devices and add Z Space labs, so we’ve been able to do the things we said we were going to do while not asking for one additional dime from our county.
Our challenges this year are different. COVID has presented a huge challenge, and we’ve talked about it before, and it’s around the ‘people’ part of this work. The workforce has become far more competitive than it has been and that means that salaries are shifting and so our local…we’re challenged right now to keep up with salaries for our classified employees, particularly in our maintenance area. We’re in the middle of doing a salary study and we’ve found that our employees are significantly behind those in the region. We’ve always known that with our teachers and our professional staff. But our classified staff are equally challenged. So that’s our biggest budget challenge. You’ve got to find recurring dollars for that – you can’t just take savings from one place and move it over there for one year or you can’t just use COVID dollars to backfill. We’ve got to make an investment in our people and that’s our biggest challenge. And so we’ve made a modest request in our budget this year to help us at least begin that process. We can’t do it in one swoop, but that’s our goal to try to do that. Every single metric that we set with consolidation, in terms of reducing our footprint, in terms of expanding programs, in terms of increasing enrollment at our middle and high schools, and as well as offering more innovative programs to our students in our community.
We feel good about that and now we’ve got to go to the next steps of balancing all of that out and making sure we keep the right people in the right seats on the bus so we can keep moving forward.