Buckingham Readies For Budget Shortfall

Published 4:02 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2011

BUCKINGHAM – Although preparation of the FY 12 budget is underway, during the January school board meeting Superintendent Gary Blair began talking about finances by focusing on changes in the governor's FY11 budget.

According to Blair, most of those changes are due to fluctuations in the school division's average daily membership, which is based on the number of students.

As of December, Buckingham had an ADM of 1,920 students. Blair explained projected deficits might not be as severe if they maintained that ADM.

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However, Blair advised that the division could be facing a FY11 shortfall of up to $114,516.12. In order to prepare for the shortfall, he said they would be putting that amount aside as a reserve, drawing approximately one-third from instruction, one-third from maintenance, and one-third from transportation.

The financial news grew grimmer as Blair moved to the FY12 budget. “What you have are the governor's changes to the budget for next year…There's a lot of them,” said Blair. “If you look at the last page, the bottom line is the total difference in this year's budget to next year's-a reduction of $1,509,770.”

Offering there were some things that could be added back, Blair began with $570,011 in jobs fund money. He pointed-out that they would not have $263,950.90 that was spent on HVAC units at Gold Hill nor $72,000 for a bus. As a result, that $905,961.90 would reduce the $1,509,770 deficit to $603,808.40.

Noting that last year they were able to pay bills for the current budget to the tune of $712,000, Blair said if they do not have enough money to do this year, they would have to add the amount to the projected deficit.

“I would say that this is a troubled budget,” concluded Blair.

Budget Calendar Approved

The superintendent presented a proposed budget calendar, which the board approved.

He began by requesting the board change its February 9 meeting to February 16. Blair said the change would help align the school board's budget preparation with the board of supervisors' budget schedule. Moreover, he would present his recommended budget on that night.

Blair added that they might be able to schedule the ground breaking for the Route 20 elementary school renovation project and the dedication of the new bus garage and maintenance facility to coincide with the February 16 meeting.

The budget calendar includes a February 22 public hearing on the proposed FY12 budget, with the meeting starting at 6 p.m.

Following that hearing, the board has the option of adopting the proposed budget for presentation to the board of supervisors. However, the calendar also includes a meeting on February 24, at 6 p.m., if budgetary revisions are necessary.

School Calendar

With unsolicited input from Mother Nature, a discussion about revisions to the school calendar proved somewhat futile with the onslaught of more ice and snow.

However, two make-up days were scheduled-Monday, February 21, President's Day, and Friday, April 22, which was supposed to be the first day of spring break,

The ensuing discussion did provide a venue for several school board members to air their concerns about early dismissals. Although the early dismissals were planned to accommodate high school students taking exams, all students are released early on those days because of transportation issues.

Expressing his dislike of early dismissals, Chairman Acie Allen stated, “If I understand it all correctly, because of the awkwardness of having kids in high school without having an exam going-on, we are sending our K through eighth grade kids home after half-a-day.” He added, “The way I said that is the way it works and I don't like that.”

David Christian offered, “I don't either.”

Allen continued, “I think the kids need to be in school.”

The chairman said he did not think students should be leaving school half-a-day just to convenience the exam schedule at the high school. “We don't need to be leaving half-a-day for two days at exam time,” he stated.

Referencing the proposed $600,000 FY12 budget shortfall, Christian stated, “It costs us the same amount of money to send kids to school for a half-a-day as it does a whole day.”

After stressing the importance of keeping Martin Luther King Day as a holiday instead of using it as a make-up day, Superintendent Blair recommended using February 21 and April 22 as make-up days. He added, “And certainly, if you want full days at the end of the year I will try to make that happen.”

Ragland shared that when they adopted the calendar for the 2010-11 year, they discussed those early dismissals and the time needed for the transition from one semester to another.

Noting the five days missed thus far coupled with last year's history of missed days and delays, Donna Matthews, director of academic services, said they may need to look at a “longer calendar” for 2011-12.

Update on Construction Projects

Providing an update on the bus garage and maintenance facility, Superintendent Blair said the project was close to 90 percent complete.

He explained that during the holidays an abandoned drain system, which smelled of petroleum, was discovered and is being addressed.

Blair said problems with tile in the bathrooms are also causing a delay.

Although the site work is near completion, Blair said surfacing of the parking area has to be done when temperatures reach 50 degrees three days in a row.

According to the superintendent, the facility's fueling system is in use. Noting the building has partial occupancy, Blair said they were moving in equipment. He added that fences are being erected and signage has been installed.

“It won't be long until we get occupancy and schedule the dedication,” stated Blair, noting the frustration caused by the continuing delays.

Kathy Midkiff, who recently visited the site, expressed concern that there appeared to be a lot of work to complete before occupancy.

Blair agreed that there was a lot to do but explained the work would progress quickly when the weather cooperated.

Moving on to the renovation projects on Route 20, Blair said the contractor is in the process of removing asbestos from the old agriculture building. He added that extensive demolition has been concluded at the lower elementary school.

All of the material on the site has been tested for asbestos, PCBs, and lead, explained Blair. “So if you notice any piles on the site, we've separated the materials. They are being tested for results before being removed or recycled.”

Noting that demolition work is underway at Dillwyn Elementary, Blair offered, “So as soon as we get all of the undesirable materials away, you'll start to see things speed-up.”

He explained, “It is a cautious and careful process to dispose of old material appropriately.”

Vice Chair Ed Wise asked if any of the asbestos was material that should have been removed by previous contractors some years ago.

Blair responded that previous work was part of an abatement process.

Ragland asked about concerns she shared earlier regarding proposed plants and trees for the renovation project.

Blair said he shared Ragland's concerns with the architect and she would be meeting with the board in the near future to discuss the landscaping.

Ragland said her primary concern is the proposed use and number of plants that are not native to the area and the resultant care and cost of including them in the landscaping. She explained her concern was spending money on landscaping that could be used elsewhere.

Hot 100

Kyle Bryan, principal of the Buckingham Vocational Center, presented Chef Sandra Hawk, instructor of the culinary arts program, with an award recognizing the program as one of the Hot 100 culinary programs in the nation.

Prior to the presentation, Superintendent Blair explained Buckingham's culinary arts program was chosen by the National Center for Hospitality Studies at Sullivan University as one of the Hot 100.

Congratulating Hawk, Blair stated, “We are certainly proud that she continues to bring honor to the program.” Addressing Hawk, he added, “You are a consistent champion and we appreciate that.”

Hawk provided an overview of the culinary arts program. She began by explaining that Buckingham utilizes ProStart, a career-building program for high school students interested in culinary arts and restaurant/food service management. “I am training tomorrow's managers and chefs,” she stated.

According to Hawk, there are 80,000 student participants in over 2,600 schools nationwide and in Guam and Puerto Rico.

“My kids are in the top 100 of those,” prided Hawk, adding that in Virginia, 40 schools participate in ProStart programs and Buckingham is the best. “I'm not bragging,” she exclaimed, “I'm stating facts.”

Hawk shared that along with being named Virginia's Culinary Teacher of the Year, she is also serving as mentor and is the education consultant on the Board of Directors for Virginia Hospitality and Tourism Association.

Graduation Dates

In light of recent comments from a parent who shared his concerns about conflicting dates of statewide athletic competitions with graduation, Blair provided information on the number of seniors who could have potential conflicts with proposed graduation dates.

“We have not finalized graduation but we think it would be June 4. We are in discussions with the high school,” said Blair.

Other possible dates include Sunday afternoon on June 5 or Friday evening of June 3. Blair offered, “I am personally not in favor of a Sunday afternoon graduation due to church activities.”

He said his proposal, if the board agreed, was to talk with the senior class-look at possible dates, send a survey out to the senior class and their parents, and come back with a date.

Blair also recommended talking to the Virginia High School League about not scheduling athletic competitions on potential Saturday graduation dates.

The superintendent stated, “It is not easy to look at a date when our students do not have the possibility of doing something else.”

Chairman Allen and Pete Gowin, noting the positives of daytime graduations, suggested staying with a daytime ceremony.

Thomas Hutcherson requested they stay away from a Sunday graduation.

After discussing the small number of seniors who would experience a conflict with graduation, the board seemed to concur with the June 4 date. However, they decided to leave the decision up to BCHS Principal Roger Coleman.

SOL Standard Setting

Blair advised that the Virginia Department of Education is setting standards for history SOLs based on test scores from the 2010 fall semester. He said the process could cause some minor complications with grades for some BCHS students.

Matthews said the scores on the history end-of-course SOL test for high school students were not scheduled to be back until sometime in February. She explained that the end-of-course SOL test is used as one of the indicators for a student's final score for that semester.

According to Matthews, standard setting for math will be next year; and the following year standard setting is scheduled for science and English. She said the delay in receiving test results would affect final grades for the fall semesters of those respective years. Matthews noted the standard setting process primarily affects high schools with a four-by-four schedule.

To accommodate students seeking early college admission and/or those seeking eligibility to participate in sports, Matthews said they have decided to use an alternative assessment by the teacher rather than the end-of-course SOL test.

Chairman Allen proposed giving the seniors an incomplete until the SOL scores are received. He said the alternative assessment would be unfair to those students who thought the SOL test would be part of their grade.

Blair offered that an incomplete could be a negative for students applying for early admissions.

Matthews said in the future-now that they are aware of the standard setting schedule-they could encourage seniors to take the respective course in the second semester.

Allen concluded, “The SOL people need to be made aware that this is a problem.”

Relaying Appreciation

Crystal G. Martin, speaking on behalf of Buckingham's Relay for Life, recognized two school employees, Sherry Dorrier and Tammy Huddleston for their “outstanding commitment” to the American Cancer Society.

Martin presented Dorrier, a teacher at Buckingham Middle School, with a polo shirt acknowledging her Grand Club status because of her efforts with that school's FFA Chapter. An individual has to be instrumental in raising $1,000 to earn the recognition.

Dorrier was one of five to achieve Grand Club status for the 2009 Relay; and one of nine in 2010, explained Martin.

“A repeat Grand Club member is an elitist group,” said Martin. “Only two people in the county have done that-Sherry and Liz Steger with Kyanite Mining Corporation.”

Although Huddleston was unable to attend the presentation, Martin explained she also achieved Grand Club status with her team Super Mario. The team, noted Martin, is named in honor of Huddleston's young nephew who after battling cancer is now in remission.

Martin thanked Superintendent Blair, the school board, and numerous others in the school system for their support of Relay for Life and for the use of school facilities.

“We have a real sense of community here and this is why we have been very successful in waging this war against cancer,” offered Martin, adding that since 2009, Buckingham's Relay for Life has raised over $140,000. The 2011 Relay for Life is scheduled for June 10 at the BCHS track.


Following a closed session, the board approved its personnel agenda as presented. Appointments included Carla Coffee and Kaitlyn Hodges as special education personal aides at Gold Hill Elementary School.

Before adjournment, Chairman Allen reminded the board that the next meeting is scheduled for the third Wednesday, February 16, instead of the customary second Wednesday of the month.