Hanover County Schools employees would get a smaller raise than they did this school year under Superintendent Michael Gill’s 2020-21 proposed budget proposal.

The proposed $199,377,085 general fund budget for the 2020-2021 school year is 2.7%, or $5.1 million larger than the general fund budget for the current year. The budget includes raises of at least 2% for all employees, new teaching and support positions and Chromebook laptops for all middle school students.

But with about 200 fewer students this year and rising property values meaning Hanover, Gill said the changes in enrollment and a reduction in state support created challenges for the county school system.

Gill said those changes means that the county will lose out on about $2.9 million the county would have received under the current state funding calculation, which takes into account enrollment as well as the health of local economy.

“Despite favorable economic conditions, this was the most difficult budget of my tenure to balance,” Gill, who became the school system’s superintendent in the fall of 2015, said in his budget proposal letter to the School Board.

“Nevertheless, through a combination of strong local support and careful evaluation of existing resources, I am confident that this budget places the highest priority on meeting our complex needs and advancing education in Hanover.”

In addition to the 2% wage increase, the school division is still moving forward with its plans to address teacher salary compression.

In an interview before his presentation to the School Board on Tuesday, Gill said the initiative is necessary to attract skilled teachers and retain employees whose wages were frozen during the Great Recession a decade ago.

“What we’ve been attempting to do for the last couple of years is to provide for that separation … and reward for experience and longevity,” he said. “About 25% of all teachers will receive more than 2 percent.”

Gill said he is also proposing to increase the base wage of bus drivers to $16 an hour and increase the hourly pay of all current drivers by $1.15.

The school system is also considering plans to hire new behavioral health specialists, counselors and a new “social-emotional learning” curriculum.

Gill said that’s because there’s a growing number of English-language learners enrolling in schools and assessments for students at risk of self-harm.

“Our needs are changing,” he said.

The School Board will hold a work session public hearing on the superintendent’s budget proposal next Tuesday.

A vote to recommend it to the Board of Supervisors for consideration in the county’s operational budget is scheduled for Feb. 11.

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