Proposed teachers pay raise stirs debate in Newport News budget meeting


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Newport News held its first of two public hearings for its proposed 2020 operational budget on Tuesday night.

Many teachers and members of the community used the meeting to speak out about the funding for the school district. City manager Cynthia Rohlf recommended level funding for the district despite a 2% increase for the overall budget.

Earlier this year, the school board voted to ask council for $2.4 million more for funding that would allow them to give 2% raise to teachers and add other positions.

Rhonda Wagner, the president of the Newport News Education Association, says it felt like a slap in the face seeing the proposed budget.

She believed that council would be for the increase, but believes that many listened to the impassioned pleas made.

“We work very closely with these kids and the parents. We see parts of them that others don’t. They convey their dreams, their hopes, what their worries are,” she said.

But a few on city council were adamant that it’s up to the school board on how they can spend current funds to raise pay.

Mayor McKinley Price told 10 On Your Side that adding more to the budget would cause tax increases, and that the council has presented options to the school board to find a way for raises, but they chose not to use them.

Those options recommend that the district use funds already in its budget, like surplus and cash capital, and the city would replenish funds spent by allocating more money into its capital improvement budget, which will be voted on later this year, according to Price.

The mayor said in the meeting that city council must consider every department, and not just the school district, when voting on the budget.

But ultimately, it’s up to the school district on how the money is spent with the funds they receive, according to Price.

“We can’t set their priorities. We can only set outs. If they chose to spend their money on other things and not the teachers, that’s on them and not on us,” he said.

There will be another public hearing on Thursday, April 11 at 7 p.m.

It will be held at the Denbigh Community Center.

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