HCPS preparing for Rocktown High School’s completion in budget

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 5:55 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Harrisonburg City Public Schools is working through its budgeting process for the upcoming school year, its school board will hold a budget work session on Tuesday. The school division must finalize its budget in April so that it can go to the city for approval.

“We’re a little bit later in presenting our budget to the school board this year because we were waiting on the General Assembly and Governor to pass budget amendments which never occurred,” said HCPS Chief Financial Officer Tracy Shaver. “We ended up building our budget off of the biennial budget that was approved late last year so that gives us an idea of what revenues we can guarantee.”

One factor in the budget for the upcoming school year is the impending opening of the new Rocktown High School in the fall of 2024.

“Planning for the opening of any school is a large task. As such we’re bringing on a planning principal next year to begin planning for the opening of that school, a bookkeeper to help procure all the supplies, materials, and equipment for the school,” said Shaver.

While the funding for most new staff at Rocktown won’t kick in until next year’s budget, HCPS is already gearing up for it to open.

“The substantial completion date is December 31st of this current calendar year after which time we take control of that building. We’re responsible for all the utilities in the building, insurance of the building, and we have to plan for the opening of a high school in 2024,” said Shaver.

Shaver said that it is important for HCPS to begin procuring equipment for Rocktown early next year with supply chain issues that leave some items on back order for months.

The current budget proposal from HCPS staff totals around $114 million and includes around $950,000 to be used on major immovable equipment for Rocktown.

“That’s going to include your kitchen equipment, your major bleachers, your desks, a lot of your furniture are included, technology costs are included but no operational costs are included this year,” said Shaver.

While it isn’t included in this year’s budget HCPS is already looking ahead at the staff positions that will need to be added when Rocktown. The exact staffing needs won’t be determined until programming for the school is selected but there will be a need for new librarians, custodians, and a principal.

“The vast majority of the staff though is going to be split because our student population is going to split. So once the programming committee has finalized their work, which is going to be later this year, and we start looking at what students are going to which school then we can determine staffing at the school,” said Shaver.

As the opening of Rocktown grows ever closer the school division has been proactive and had to build operational and planning costs in for next year.

“We also have to build in costs for the year it opens because the year that the school opens is the year you’re going to be splitting your staff, you’re going to be splitting your students, and you’re really going to be splitting your funds as well,” said Shaver.

Shaver said that the budget proposal for the 2023-2024 school year is around $8 million more than the budget for the current school which is primarily due to inflation. It includes a 5% salary and wage increase for all staff.