LYNCHBURG, Va. – Lynchburg City Schools, along with the city’s sheriff’s office, are hoping a 2024 Fiscal Year Budget can help address areas of concern for their departments.
Budget discussions have gone on for weeks in Lynchburg and perhaps the most notable moment is when the city council voted to change the real estate tax rate from the current $1.11 per $100 of assessed value to 89 cents.
Councilmembers Faraldi, Helgeson, Misjuns and Taylor were a strong reason for the change following a letter they sent to City Manager Wynter Benda back in March. Shortly after, Benda responded with a letter of his own saying what they’re asking for would leave more than $6 million deficit in the proposed budget.
Two areas of concern are Lynchburg City Schools and public safety.
Lynchburg’s Sheriff Don Sloan has been asking for four additional deputies to help out with their primary responsibilities in the court. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sloan says there’s been an increase in incidents in their courthouses.
“There’s some real security concerns and my goal as sheriff number one is to protect my community in our court systems and everyone that comes to our court facilities,” Sloan said.
The city told Sheriff Sloan that there would be money to be able to fund two new deputies. Sloan says he’s just hoping they don’t go back on what he’s been told.
“Whatever that rate that they set for the property tax rate can be as low as they can get it as long as they fund their primary core service — public safety, the education of our children,” Sloan said. “I know several members spoke to that they’re going to find the money and I hope that’s the case. I really do because this is something that’s vital for our office.”
Lynchburg City Schools has asked for an additional $7 million from the city to help support raises for staff and teachers. However, some of the same members advocating for the new tax rate also say the schools have a surplus and funding can be spent elsewhere.
Chairman of the Lynchburg City School Board Dr. James Coleman is hopeful that some council members will change their minds.
“We are fighting with all that we have as such a time as this to make sure that the budget that we have reviewed on the school side will be supported by local effort from Lynchburg City Council,” Coleman said.
A majority of the money the schools are asking for will go towards their 15/50 plan. It’s an initiative to try and get classified employees such as bus drivers, mechanics and custodians to $15 an hour. The 50 stands for raising the starting teacher pay from $43,469 to $50,000 to keep up with surrounding counties and cities.
“Our teachers deserve it, they work hard,” Coleman said. “We’ve been incrementally trying to do what we’ve been doing over the years but now at this time it is absolutely imperative that the resolve by our city, our city council in particular, is to support Lynchburg City Schools.”
City council have until the end of May to vote on a new budget for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins July 1.