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Ahead of budget approval, Chesterfield residents weigh in on how millions will be spent

Ahead of budget approval, Chesterfield residents weigh in on how millions will be spent

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Trailers are used for classrooms at Winterpock Elementary. Chesterfield principals said student populations have grown faster than expected.

A handful of Chesterfield County residents, businesses and nonprofit organizations offered opinions Wednesday night on the proposed $806.8 million general fund and $367 million capital budgets that county officials are slated to approve early next month.

One speaker at Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors public hearing took the opportunity to discuss a different pot of money — the future $600 million bond referendum set for November 2022.

Nicole Rowland, a county middle school teacher and chairperson of the school system’s Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee, called for the upcoming bond referendum to be moved to this coming November.

A $600 million bond referendum had been planned for November 2020, but it was delayed because of COVID-19. The school system is expected to receive a large chunk of the bond for school construction projects, including new buildings.

“One of the priorities of the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee is to reduce the school district’s dependence on trailers as learning environments for our students. The county cannot do this without more buildings,” Rowland said during a general public comment session.

The school system is using more than 200 trailers as classroom spaces, Rowland said.

The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors is working through both proposals for the fiscal year that begins July 1. County officials presented a proposed $367 million capital budget that looks to undertake construction over the next five fiscal years, including spending about $94 million in the upcoming fiscal year. The county also promised an additional $18.2 million to schools this budget season.

Earlier this month, the Chesterfield School Board sent a $774.7 million budget proposal and a five-year $421.4 million capital improvement plan to the supervisors.

Both the county and school system are looking to tackle salary compression by reverting years of underpaying veteran employees, with only a slight pay difference between longtime employees and new hires. The county is addressing salaries for public safety employees, while the school system is tackling teacher pay.

Hunter Leemon, the executive director of Sportable, an adaptive sports club for individuals with physical disabilities and visual impairments, thanked the county for considering the organization financially in the proposed budget.

Sportable is hosting weekly rugby and basketball leagues at Carver Middle for those who use a wheelchair. There is also a track and field program at Swift Creek Middle.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to us and how grateful we are that you are considering supporting us,” Leemon said.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the proposed budget next month.

jnocera@timesdispatch.com

Twitter: @jessmnocera

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