Jan. 28, 2021

Dear Henrico colleagues, families, students, community stakeholders and friends,

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, all of us as individuals and as a collective society have had important goals and plans put on hold. That includes the ambitious plans for Henrico County Public Schools that I outlined in last year’s recommended financial plan. Though the public health crisis and its uncertain economic ramifications delayed some of our plans, the crisis most certainly did not stop them. While our fiscal approach for this school year has been one of prudence and responsibility, our efforts to provide core services to students has been one of innovation and creativity. I am proud of what the Henrico team has accomplished on behalf of students despite the challenging and unique circumstances.

With a hopeful outlook in regard to returning to pre-pandemic operations, we are able to bring forth a plan that seeks to restore cuts that were made during the pandemic and puts us on solid footing to work toward bringing other important initiatives to life in the coming years. Your input was critical in formulating this recommendation, and I am grateful that we can continue to invest in the areas you told us were important to you.

You told us in recent years that HCPS needs to continue to provide more opportunities and support systems for students and teachers alike; and to continue to invest in safe and well-maintained learning spaces. In addition, we will continue to invest in our valued employees and focus on educational equity as well as the social and emotional needs of our students, as we pursue the goals in our 2025 strategic plan.

Below are some of the highlights of the 2021-22 recommended financial plan. We will invest in important areas such as:

  • Fully funding all existing positions.
  • Covering the full cost of employee health care increases by 6%, or $3 million.
  • Enhancing operations by adding:
    • A school bus tracking app to allow parents to locate their student’s bus in real time.
    • 10 additional school counselors.
  • Restoring some of last year’s budget reductions such as:
    • Previously frozen positions.
    • Professional learning funds. 
    • Tech books and instructional supplies.
    • Technology infrastructure and equipment.

What about a pay increase? Yes, this will be addressed soon! In Henrico, unlike our neighboring localities, it’s customary for employee raises to be considered together (all schools and all general government employees such as police officers, firefighters, etc.) a little later in the budget process. Additional compensation is a goal this year, and I urge you to stay tuned for more information in the near future. Our employees make critical and valued contributions every day to the success of our county. The School Board and I continue to advocate for you, and we feel our county is working diligently to reward you for that service and dedication. 

A word about equity: While we had to pause some of our initiatives, I’m incredibly proud of the work we did during the pandemic to address the challenges of equity. While many of our employees, students and families have thrived in predominantly virtual education, it has been a challenge for others. Our School Board and staff have worked tirelessly to ensure that every student has had access to resources: for example, getting devices into the hands of all our students, providing internet access, eliminating laptop fees and delivering free meals to bus stop locations.

Henrico’s strong commitment to public education. During this trying time, our community’s commitment to public education has never wavered. Overall — even with the economic turbulence caused by the pandemic — the general fund budget included in this Recommended Annual Financial Plan reflects an increase of $16,212,073 million over the current budget, and totals $526,117,841. That’s a 3.2 percent increase over the current year, and altogether more than 56 percent of Henrico County’s general fund budget.

Developing a financial plan is a big task. Developing one while simultaneously tackling public health and economic challenges is a mammoth undertaking. It is only possible through the teamwork of HCPS and county staff. I would like to express my appreciation to school division staff as well as County Manager John Vithoulkas and his staff for their assistance in developing this plan. All of us in Henrico County are lucky to enjoy the unique and generous support of HCPS by Henrico taxpayers, the School Board, the Henrico Board of Supervisors and the county manager.

What’s next? While this financial plan is being presented to the School Board on Jan. 28, it will go through a series of public discussions and potential revisions before it is approved later this spring. The items included in what will eventually be the approved/adopted plan would then take effect on or after July 1, 2021.

The past year has been a challenge and it’s required our complete focus. Now it is time to move forward again, together. This recommendation, with its investment in the priorities you have articulated, is a strong start.

Sincerely,

Amy E. Cashwell, Ed. D.
Superintendent

Contact Information:

Debra Hargrave, Director of Budget  804-652-3633

Vacant, Chief Financial Officer

Please provide comments, suggestions and questions to the budget office @ budget@henrico.k12.va.us