Hopewell’s City Council & School Board Began Budget Talks

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The Hopewell School Board met with Hopewell City Council last Thursday to begin preliminary discussions for the department’s budget. The School Board’s presentation requested that the city grant additional funds to the schools budget.
The two groups met at the Hopewell High School library where the School Board planned a tour of the school’s facilities, specifically its career and technical education (CTE) programs.
One of Superintendent Melody Hackney’s goals when coming to Hopewell was to expand and maintain school CTE programs. With the support of the School Board Hopewell houses programs like film and theater production, marketing, fashion design, cosmetology, culinary courses, auto shop and construction.
School Board Chairman Christopher Reber commended Hackney’s efforts for convincing the board to keep their CTE programs in-house.
During the tour, councilors were given an in-depth look on the schools programs and the accomplishments of its students. For instance, culinary students prepared a meal for everyone present before discussions began.
First Director of Finance and Board Clerk Monique Barnes assessed revenue. Based on projections from the Governor’s budget Hopewell, may receive $926,326 from the state. With anticipated reductions from title one federal fund, debt service reduction, loss of tuition from other localities, and no additional revenue coming over the net change in the schools revenue is approximately $564,162.
The governor’s budget calls for a 1.5 percent bonus for teachers starting Dec. 2017. It also mandates a 1.78 percent increase in the Virginia Retire System. The cost of the two directives adds a $286,538 shortfall in the predicted budget.
In additional to the shortfall, the board requested additional funds to support initiatives like an expanded summer school, adjusted custodian salaries, healthcare increases and other appropriated costs, adding an additional $515,179 to their request for a grand total of approximately $1.1 million.
Hackney explained that initially she asked the administration and instructors, ‘If money were no object, what would your dream initiatives be?’ Hackney then received a list of initiatives that exceed the amount above. Though Hackney claims everything on that list could be defended, after 18 months of collaborating and reorganizing the existing budget, Hackney and staff found room for their dream projects without breaking the bank.
“We want you to understand that this really is new money that we need,” Hackney said. “But, we’ve come up with hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of stuff by reorganizing and attrition…maximizing every penny.”

Through a reallocation of current funding, the school administration plans to fund new and old initiatives like early college academy, changes in curriculum, reorganizing transportation department, technology upgrades, in-house professional development, increased special and alternative education services, expanded teacher recruitment and retention, and more. The board has an intereste in the Richmond based CodeRVA programs as well.
By investing in new styles of curriculum, the board expects the best results. That night, for instance, Hackney reports that even now their students have made significant improvements in target areas of accreditation thanks to their investments in curriculum and project-based learning.
City Council expressed their gratitude towards the School Board for their presentation, especially their focus on staff improvements and new initiatives. Though the conversation was only a precursor to eventual budget hearings, the corroboration between the two entities is a show of good faith moving forward.

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