While Staunton’s elected School Board makes decisions about the operation of our school system, City Council is responsible for funding our schools.
Like schools across the country, we have many unmet needs, from staffing to building maintenance to clean student transportation. Staunton needs to provide competitive funding to our schools. Unfortunately, just to take the example of nearby Waynesboro, we’re falling behind.
- In fiscal year 2022, Staunton boasted a general fund budget $7 million higher than Waynesboro but we spent $3 million less on education.
- That means we spent 10.9% less per pupil. This gap is not new, and goes back at least to the past five years.
- As a result, Staunton has more than 20 recently vacant positions that we may be unable to fill for lack of funding. Positions include teachers, bus drivers and technicians, instructional assistants and counselors.
When we skimp on schools, our students suffer. But so do the rest of us. Good schools attract homebuyers, raising the value of homes, the largest asset for most Staunton families. Good schools also attract employers, creating jobs and generating tax revenues that pay for city services — including helping to fund our schools.
We must find more money for education. But we cannot rely on tired old funding formulas to get the money. Raising property taxes hurts homeowners and renters alike, as landlords pass tax increases along to their tenants in the form of higher rent. Instead of just raising property taxes, we need to be creative to find new ways to fund our schools.
Erik’s Record on Education & School Funding
- In his two terms on City Council, Erik consistently voted for full funding for schools and didn’t try to negotiate away key programs like childcare vouchers for employees with children, a key way to retain and recruit staff.
- Not satisfied with relying so heavily on property tax revenue to fund education, Erik sought creative alternatives to bring in new revenue. For example, he successfully pushed to level up Staunton’s per-pack cigarette tax to match levels in comparable cities and earmark the additional funds for schools. To date, that’s generated more than $500,000 in new revenue that wasn’t previously available — at no additional cost to homeowners.
Erik’s Ideas to Move Forward
- As suggested by Staunton School Board Chair Ken Venable, convene a task force of city and school officials and community leaders, including businesspeople, to envision and identify new sources of funding including grants and sponsorships from the private sector both inside our local area and from further beyond.
- Help schools deal with one of their fastest growing expenses, energy to power their buildings and fuel to run diesel school buses, by tapping into existing sources of funding from the federal government and other sources for electric school buses, energy efficiency improvements and on-campus clean energy.