CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — Chesterfield County Public Schools Superintendent Merv Daugherty has proposed an $846.8 million dollar budget for the next school year that would include nearly $60 million in salary raises for teachers and other staff.
The breakdown proposes $36 million for teachers and other school staff and $23.6 million for food service staff, bus drivers, custodians, security and clerical support.
This comes as the district is facing a shortage of teachers, with about 200 open positions right now.
"It's definitely the first step of a few to ensure that we are attracting and retaining highly-qualified educators," explained Christine Melendez, president of the Chesterfield Education Association.
Melendez noted teachers that she's talked to are thankful for this proposed pay raise, but they are also a little concerned.
She said those concerns come from the fact that this pay raise proposal is based on a study from three years ago, and the cost of living in the county has increased. She's also worried that there’s not yet a breakdown of the percent each employee’s salary would increase.
The district said it's conducting a salary study, and individual raise amounts are still being determined.
"The last time we saw somewhere between a 3% to like 14% increase, depending on where you were on the scale," said Melendez. "And so, I think missing that piece of the budget proposal has been a little worrisome for some employees, especially noticing that counties around us have received stipends or bonuses throughout the school year."
There’s also some concern the board won’t be able to fully fund the raises.
This proposed budget is $80 million higher than the current year’s budget, and the expected funding increases from the state and county are only about $60 million — leaving a $20 million gap.
Melendez fears if these raises aren't approved, the district will lose more teachers. She added some current teachers are planning to leave at the end of the school year, amid the optional mask policy and feeling unappreciated.
"It's just playing catch up after two years of ignoring or choosing not to fund salaries for highly-qualified, well-educated professionals," she explained. "To be a fully-licensed teacher in Virginia, you have to have a bachelor's degree. You have to pass certain state mandated tests. And we've seen in the last few years, especially since COVID hit, that we've experienced such a shortage in teachers that we are allowing people into the classroom, who may have a heart for teaching, but haven't gone through all of that training, all of that experience."
Melendez encourages community members and teachers to come out and voice support for the proposed raises during Tuesday night's public budget hearing at 6:30 p.m.
The school board is expected to vote on the budget on Feb. 25, as they need to get an approved budget before the county by March 1.