Budget would boost teacher pay, Medicaid waivers

The Virginia House of Delegates released its proposed amendments to the 2012-2014 state budget Sunday, seeking to pump more money into the commonwealth’s “rainy day” fund, education and Medicaid.

The proposals include a $95 million deposit in the state’s rainy day fund, which is used for contingencies. The plan also would provide $45 million for pay raises for teachers and school support staff, funding for school security and funding for an addition 250 Medicaid waiver slots.

“On the heels of the news that our national economy shrunk in the last quarter of 2012, it’s important that we continue to exercise fiscal discipline,” said House Majority Leader M. Kirkland “Kirk” Cox, R-Colonial Heights, who is also vice-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Cox said the $95 million rainy day fund includes $45 million more than Gov. Bob McDonnell called for. This would prepare Virginia for economic challenges that might lie ahead, Cox said.

House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, commended the plan that emerged from the House Appropriations Committee.

“This is a conservative and responsible budget that makes targeted investments in our core areas of need and focuses on our governing priorities: jobs, K-12 and higher education, public safety and health care,” Howell said.

The 250 Medicaid slots added by the budget would create 200 Intellectual Disability waivers and 50 Development Disability waivers, according to Delegate Riley Ingram, R-Hopewell. The budget specifically includes $7.7 million for ID and DD Medicaid waivers.

“Protecting the health care safety net for less fortunate Virginians is absolutely critical,” Ingram said.

The budget also includes $2.5 million in targeted economic development incentives to create the Cyber Accelerator program, which state officials hope will attract cyber security companies to Virginia and will be managed by the state’s Center for Innovative Technology.

The allocation would also increase the cap by $500,000 for angel investor tax credit, a credit system to help individual investors in early-stage businesses.

“In the past three years, we have invested over $100 million in concentrated economic development and watched our unemployment rate drop to 5.5 percent,” said Delegate Steve Landes, R-Augusta, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s economic development subcommittee. “But we know there is more work to do.”

Funding Cyber Accelerator and expanding the angel investor tax credit are just two ways that efforts are being made to create a good climate for job creation, Landes said.

For education, the House’s proposed budget expands on McDonnell’s proposed 2 percent pay raise for teachers and includes support staff. The proposed funding totals $62 million. The budget also includes $12 million for higher education enrollment growth and $3.7 million to increase Virginia Tuition Assistance grants from $2,800 to $3,100 per student.

“As they grow older, we want to make sure all of our students have the opportunity to attend a Virginia college or university” said Delegate Bob Tata, R-Virginia Beach, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on K-12 education. “Expanded funding to encourage enrollment growth and TAG grants are two important parts of achieving that goal.”

School and public safety were also mentioned in the budget. House Republicans announced Friday that there would be $31 million for this purpose. The budget includes $1.7 million for school resource officers and $30 million for school security improvements.

“We want to reward and recognize our teachers because the selfless work they do is critical to the education of our young people,” Tata said. “Educating our young people is critical to Virginia’s long-term economic development.”

The House of Delegates is expected to vote on its budget proposal Feb. 7.
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HCPS wins national honor for overhaul of Code of Student Conduct, supports


Henrico County Public Schools recently was recognized by the National School Boards Association for a sweeping overhaul of the school division’s approach to student supports. HCPS was one of five large U.S. school systems recognized with a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Awards, presented Saturday in Denver at the organization’s annual conference. The awards recognize school divisions and leaders “for taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of students and their communities,” according to the group.

The award recognizes Henrico Schools’ efforts of the past several years, from re-examining its policies to implementing more support systems. After a two-year conversation with the community through public hearings and other feedback, HCPS adopted a revised Code of Student Conduct for the 2015-16 school year. > Read more.

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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The Pocahontas Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society will meet at 7 p.m. at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Berniece Thieblot will share the story of how her 600-acre property in Nelson County became a designated Virginia Treasure in 2016. Virginia Treasures are identified by the state to preserve, protect and highlight Virginia’s most important ecological, cultural, scenic and recreational assets as well as its special lands. The program is free and open to the public. A short business meeting will follow the presentation. For details, visit http://www.vnps.org/pocahontas. Full text

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