Henrico school leaders look to close $11-million budget gap - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Henrico school leaders look to close $11-million budget gap

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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -

Despite an $11-million short fall, if you have a job with Henrico County schools, you won't lose it. That's the word as the system works to close the gap in other ways.

The budget proposed for this year is a bit larger than the last one at around $500 million.  School leaders say they've used some innovative ways to cut back and are calling it a "status quo" budget.

As buses lined up to take students home for the weekend, school leaders continued the process of going through 500 pages that make up the budget. And just like in years before, they say this economy is making it difficult to find a balance.

"[But] we're not cutting positions anyone who wants a job has a job in Henrico County," said Andy Jenks, HCPS director of communications. "There are some cuts happening in some places but we're not wiping programs off the board."

However, teacher raises will not happen. It comes as Governor McDonnell requested a 2-percent raise.

"This is going to be a top priority, making teachers get paid well," the governor said at a press conference a few weeks ago.

But one of the requirements called for counties to match state funds, that's something Henrico school leaders say is just not possible this year.

"The superintendent understands that the teachers want a raise and deserve a raise but for months he's been communicating to the teachers that in the current economic environment," Jenks said. "It is more important to make sure that everybody keeps their job."

There is an $11-million budget gap to fill, but savings will come in additional state funding.  There will be cuts on utilities and not filling certain positions if someone leaves or retires. It's all things necessary to keep up with a growing school community.

At the same time while school leaders are working to close that budget gap they're also adding 59 positions including several for bus drivers. At least half of the positions are at the new Kaechele Elementary School in the West End. The school is expected to open this fall.

"We feel we are making the best decisions for Henrico County," Jenks said. People will still get a chance to give their opinion on the decisions in the next few weeks.

On January 29th the there will be a public hearing on the budget at Henrico High School at 6:30 p.m. It's set to be approved by the school board on February 28th.

The Board of Supervisors will need to approve the budget after that.

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