School Budget Left Unchanged at $517 Million

The Prince William School Board has approved a $517 million operating budget that went largely unchanged despite plans by the Board of County Supervisors to lower the property tax rate below $1.19 per $100 of assessed value.

Although supervisors have yet to set a property tax rate, school officials said they would be able to maintain the services they planned, including a salary increase for teachers and 20 new nurses, as long as the rate did not drop below $1.16 per $100 of assessed value. The county gives 56.75 percent of its revenues to the school system.

After two months of workshops and discussions, the budget was approved unanimously with little discussion. The proposal includes an average 6.8 percent raise for teachers -- a 3 percent cost-of-living increase, a 2.8 percent "step increase" for eligible employees and an increase in the increment between steps.

A teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience will make $35,455 annually under the budget, compared with $34,423 in last year's budget. A teacher with a master's degree at the top of the salary scale will make $71,944 annually, compared with $67,184 last year. School officials said they raised that to keep up with surrounding school districts, which pay experienced teachers more.

The budget also includes operating costs for Alvey Elementary School, opening in the fall in the west end of the county, and construction and startup costs for five schools opening in fall 2004. Those are two elementary schools, two high schools and a "traditional" school in Woodbridge, similar to Pennington School in Manassas.

Parents Asked to Review Social Studies Texts

County schools are seeking input from parents on social studies textbooks being considered for grades K-12. The books will be available tomorrow, Tuesday, Wednesday and April 7, 8 and 9 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Ashland Elementary School in Manassas.

A member of the textbook committee can answer questions and provide more information at the meetings. For more information, call social studies supervisor Bruce Leiby at 703-791-7270.

School Bus Rodeo Seeks Volunteer Judges

Volunteer judges are needed for the third annual Prince William/Fairfax County school bus rodeo.

More than 100 school bus drivers will participate in the event, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 26 at Prince William's eastern bus operations center, behind Potomac High School in Dumfries. Judges need to arrive by 8:30 a.m.

All drivers are required to complete a written examination, perform a thorough pre-trip inspection of a school bus and drive through an obstacle course that will test nine skills. The competition will take place on three courses.

"The ultimate goal is to have fun, but it is a learning experience," said Ron Rohrbach, a training instructor with Prince William schools. "The reason we hold this is to let the public know the daily routine of a normal school bus driver."

The winner will advance to the state rodeo June 18.

To volunteer or for more information, contact Ron Rohrbach at 703-368-0566 or rohrbarj@pwcs.edu.

-- Compiled by Michele Clock

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