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PE School Board Okays Budget

PRINCE EDWARD – With few last minute changes, County school board members closed the cover on the 2012-13 school budget last week. And, as expected, many of the penciled in cuts are still on the books.

By Chairman Russell Dove's count, there will be 11 fewer teaching positions instead of 14 (that had been penciled in during the budget process) for the coming year. Still, the school board is weighing two options for custodial services that could put more funds back into the school coffers, restoring some of the cuts (possibly, depending on the selected option) as much as some $200,000.

Among the cuts on the first level: positions in the budget but not filled for 2011-12 ($175,825), elementary Spanish program with two teaching positions ($129,960); reduction of an elementary teaching position ($64,980); five elementary school instructional aide positions ($105,000); two teaching positions at the middle school ($129,960); high/middle school Read 180 program with 1.2 full-time equivalent positions ($64,980) and support services and materials for the program ($20,990); elimination of the ROTC program ($60,000); high school special education teacher position ($64,980); reduction of one special education administration position ($72,700); division-wide purchased services for special education ($10,000); elimination of one support position at the school board office ($59,114), savings factored under an energy maintenance contract ($82,800); division-wide miscellaneous pay ($20,000) tapping into other program funds to serve students, materials and miscellaneous pay for transportation ($40,000), and division-wide operational expenditures (totaling $114,567).

And, with the latest revision, a list of Level II cuts factoring homebound services budget reductions ($20,000), psychology purchased services ($5,000); division-wide travel ($4,000); division-wide purchased services not for special education ($4,567); special education teacher position at the middle school through attrition ($64,980); transferring a middle school teacher to be funded with federal funds ($64,980); an elementary computer teacher position (a reassignment and won't mean a job loss) ($64,980); a high school German teacher, with the program to be provided through Virtual Virginia ($64,980); elementary reduction of a teaching position, a reassignment of an elementary school teacher to the middle school due to resignations at the middle school, $64,980); a reduction in the one percent cost of living increase to .75 percent ($42,500), giving workers a six percent total increase while accommodating the VRS mandated employee share increase (of five percent); and combining the Division Gifted Resource teacher with the Middle School Spanish teacher position ($64,980).

Collectively, the Level II cuts total $432,380.

Items that were listed for cutting, but now received a reprieve in the final budget, include a proposed move to combine the high school agriculture/horticulture position; reducing the art teacher at the high school to half-time; eliminating the high school band teacher position; and eliminating altogether the .75 percent proposed salary increase.

School officials, in some noted final changes, plan to combine the gifted resource teacher with the middle school Spanish teacher positions, which would maintain eighth grade Spanish for credit, but eliminate the fifth-seventh grades Spanish resource program. The balance of the assignment for the position would be as the division gifted resource teacher.

Reducing the planned one percent cost of living increase to .75 percent frees up $42,500 in savings to partially fund the combined position. The balance in funding comes from a reduction in the homebound services budget of $20,000, psychology purchased services, a $4,000 reduction in division-wide travel, and $4,567 less in division-wide purchased services not for special education.

Some Possible Savings

But there may be some possible savings with further actions of the school board. Specifically, the school board has discussed and studied-though not agreed-to a self-insurance option for health insurance, which could afford some savings.

In addition, school officials are also weighing outsourcing options for custodial services. (Requests for proposals for the services were sought and four proposals received.) Two options weighed include maintaining current full-time workers with at least ten years of experience for payroll and benefit purposes. The workers would be under the management and direction of the contractor and replaced by the firm through attrition. A second option would not include such a stipulation, though school officials could suggest those workers be hired.

Contracting the services, depending on the chosen firm and option, could save between $52,100-$224,968.

As more funding becomes available, the school board is expected to look to the prioritized list of cuts for reinstatement.

Superintendent Dr. David Smith also noted a variable in the state's budget, which had not been finalized as of the meeting. He said it “could still shift a little bit…we think.”

Other Action

School board members, by resolution, chose to make the five percent Virginia Retirement System reduction all at once rather than phase it in. (The budget factors an increase to worker salaries to offset the increase). A second resolution, related to non-professional workers, sets the school board's contribution rate at 8.54 percent, rather than having a reduced rate in the coming budget year that would have to be made up in succeeding years.

Following a long discussion, the school board approved the termination of the energy savings contract between Energy Education, Inc. and the county schools. The board discussed costs and savings of the program (aimed at saving energy costs over time). It was estimated to cost $114,240 in the current fiscal year, but is estimated to save $82,800 in the coming fiscal year after the termination.

The savings from ending the contract was factored into the budget for the coming year.