By Brandon Martin
Martinsville City Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Zebedee “Zeb” Talley Jr., unveiled the school system’s proposed $22,980,673 budget at a Jan. 13school board meeting.
The budget includes a proposed $6,388,276 in local funds to pay for staff, buses and pay hikes for teachers.
As part of that, the division requested $892,024 to hire new school counselors, special education teachers and handle other additional staffing needs.
“The Governor has an idea that he would like to put more counselors in the schools. With the mental trauma that the students are having now, there is a need to have someone for students to really talk to. To actually be a counselor and not a test person,” Talley said. “I truly wish that we could have an additional counselor at every school. ”
The school division also requested $260,462 for division-level requests, such as upgrades to school buses and salary increases.
“Out of approximately 32 buses and other vehicles, we have seven buses that are 1-5 years of age, zero in the 6-10-year range, 13 in the 11-15-year age range and nine that are in the 15 year plus range,” Executive Director of Administrative Services Travis Clemons said. He added that the life expectancy for one of their buses is “around a 15-year lifespan,” based on state recommendations.
Talley also discussed the school’s capital improvement list for the year.
“These are things on the short list that we will take care of. I was very pleased that we were able to do the middle school roof, most of Albert Harris’ (Elementary School) roof, etc. Because of the availability for work, a lot of those things can be in the $300,000 range,” he said.
Clemons said that the top priority on the list would be to “fix the Central Office roof at Druid Hills.” Talley added that this funding is “for things that we can’t always count on. A boiler could break down or a hot water heater, and you can’t really depend on that to always be there. Once your buildings go down, it’s hard to bring them back up.”
Other items that were deemed necessary are repairs to the handicapped elevator at Albert Harris Elementary School, estimated to cost $35,746, and bus replacements costing approximately $160,000.
Talley said that among the biggest cost factors are costs associated with the Virginia Retirement System (VRS).
“We have to pay (those costs). It’s a non-negotiable,” he said, adding that VRS is estimated to cost Martinsville $109,307.
The division also would pay $226,839 for a 1.5 percent raise for teachers, $17,924 for a bus driver raise and $93,744 to go to step increases.
“We don’t want our teachers to go without a raise, and that’s the most important thing to me,” Talley said.
The school division also anticipates receiving $15,675,469 in state entitlements and $916,928 in other funds.
In other matters, the board:
*Heard from Dru Ingram, of the Martinsville City Public Schools Endowment Foundation. Ingram announced that the foundation will donate more than $25,000 to educators this year. “This is the largest awarded grant we have had since the foundation’s inception,” Ingram said.
He added that most of the funds are directed towards Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics programs like robotics and upgrades to libraries.
Ingram also announced the theme of the fundraiser for the Endowment Foundation is “Winter Wonderland.” The event will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. on Feb. 1 at the New College Institute. Tickets are $40; seats are $50, and sponsored tables for organizations are $500.
A local group, “I Am With the Band,” will provide music for the event that also includes a silent auction will be held.
*The school board recognized the Martinsville Boy’s Varsity Soccer Team for placing as Runner-up in the 2019 State Tournament.
“Just to be able to go into the final four undefeated was a major thing for us. They really came together as a group and a lot of them have turned into good, young men. We’d like to thank the school board and the athletic department at the high school. Anything we ever need, it’s always there. We are fortunate to have the support that the school system gives the soccer team and all of the sports,” said Head Coach Pete Scouras.
*Vice-mayor Chad Martin introduced Kuwait Club No. 126, which presented the school board with a donation of toys to be distributed in the schools.
“We would like to donate these toys to you all and we hope you will put them to good use and help make Martinsville a better place,” said Curtis R. Millner II, a representative for the group.
*Adopted the 2020-21 school calendar; approved the financial reports ending December 31, 2019.