School Funding

School funding tops list of current budget aids for Southwest Virginia | Government and politics

RICHMOND — Increases for teachers and money to rebuild crumbling public schools are bipartisan items likely to receive increased funding over the next two years, delegates representing Southwest Virginia said in the process. state budget planning.

The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have both drafted two-year budgets and will soon work together to finalize a spending plan. tens of billions value for taxpayers money. The fifth term of the Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, is one of 22 members of the House Appropriations Committee for the first time.

“It’s great to be able to defend our region,” Rasoul said of the budgeting process. “Just to make sure we get our fair share.”

More than $500 million is being budgeted by delegates for school building incentives, which lawmakers say could encourage up to $2 billion in improvements, good for about 80 new school facilities.

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House lawmakers also proposed a 4% raise in each of the next two years for teachers, in addition to 1% bonuses both years.

Rasoul said he is still seeking increased support for teacher raises and other ways to help schools, including additional funding for schools with at-risk youth populations, especially beneficial for Roanoke.

“I feel like we’ve done well trying to get as much as we can for Southwest Virginia so far,” Rasoul said. “But I hope that will only improve as the negotiations progress.”

Lawmakers are budgeting with a state surplus of more than $2.5 billion, though Republicans who hold a majority in the House plan to deliver on campaign promises that Virginians will get some of it in refunds of taxes.

“It’s great to be in this situation right now,” Rasoul said. “State revenues are strong and we are able to make good targeted investments.”

In the Democratic-controlled Senate, the promised tax cuts are a point of contention. It’s a balancing act to ensure that the state’s basic needs for education, health care and public services are fully funded, while finding ways to reasonably reimburse taxpayers, Rasoul said. .

“I voted for tax refunds and I voted to repeal the food tax. It seemed reasonable,” Rasoul said. “Some of the others are very expensive and long-term decisions. , with long-term impacts.”

Balance has been struck in the House’s proposed budget, as evidenced by funds to build schools and concurrent taxpayer relief, Del said. Will Wampler, R-Washington. He is a second-term lawmaker who is also serving on the House Finance Committee for the first time.

“In the House budget, we have $2 billion in tax relief for Virginians through various tax cuts: groceries, gas, relief going directly to taxpayers,” Wampler said. “We’ll have to watch how these continue through the session, see which ones make it to the final budget.”

In addition to school funds, Wampler said the House budget included funding for a mental health crisis center in southwest Virginia, in hopes such a facility would reduce the need for the forces. of the order to become so extensively involved in related appeals.

“This is the first step that we can take to help start that initial treatment of people in crisis and hopefully move towards a better patient outcome,” Wampler said. “Once we’ve provided a place, I think we should expect to continue that continuum of care, making sure people are taking care of their initial crisis and getting ongoing treatment as needed.”

As for economic development, $180 million in the House’s proposed budget is earmarked to establish shovel-ready commercial sites to attract manufacturing, industry and commerce opportunities, Wampler said.

“With the leadership in place … and multiple Southwest Appropriation officials involved, we can see a lot more attention on Southwest Virginia,” Wampler said. “I hope it’s seen as a good thing.”

There is also money to support farmers who follow best farming practices, he said.

But perhaps the biggest emerging victory is bipartisan support for school funding, which could reduce construction needs estimated at $25 billion statewide.

“Over $500 million for school construction is a huge win for the entire state and Southwest Virginia,” Wampler said. “It’s going to help us upgrade some schools, build new schools, and provide much-needed maintenance in some of these school divisions in Southwest and Southside.”