PE Schools Get Straw Support

Published 5:09 pm Thursday, April 18, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD – The public hearing on the County's budget plan isn't scheduled until Monday, April 22, but school officials found board support for their latest school funding request Tuesday afternoon.

While it's not a guarantee that funding will be in the pipe, it may offer fewer sleep-challenged nights for school officials needing monies to match state funding for a two percent raise, health insurance increases and an eleventh hour state-funded (with matching local grant) reading specialist position.

The school board-which had originally presented a budget seeking $1.37 million in additional local funds-forwarded a modified request of $240,148. While the state is providing $160,020 for a two percent increase in salary for specific employees that require a $42,391 match, the school board's request also includes $130,779 in additional funding to provide all school workers with the two percent increase.

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Also covered in the request is $90,000 for health insurance renewal for the same coverage and funding for a reading specialist. The General Assembly has provided $39,955 in funds for the school system to hire an early reading specialist to work with elementary school children, but that requires a $19,369 match.

“…The way two of those items work, with the salary increase and the early reading specialist, if we are not able to do that in our budget, then we lose the state revenue that's associated with that-a total of $199,000 for those two items,” Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith informed supervisors.

The superintendent also noted, “…You know the ins and outs of…the equivalent tax increases but it would seem that this is an amount small enough it might fall below anything that would require a tax increase.”

The request reached sympathetic ears and the board even discussed the option of providing an additional $51,800 to get teachers back on their proper pay step (an incremental pay increase based on years of service, which has been frozen in recent years).

It was noted that the school employees have only received a one percent increase and an $800 bonus since 2009.

Hampden District Supervisor Charles McKay sought to confirm that the County has not caught up with its steps (which was confirmed) and asked how County employees would feel about giving the schools the funds to get their steps and the County's employees are behind.

In the end supervisors took a straw poll of sorts of the board for supporting the requested funds for the school, though the board isn't scheduled to adopt a budget until after Monday's public hearing.

Big Budget Picture

Tuesday's budget work session tackled a number of weighty issues. Working off of the County administrator's budget proposal that had already called for a $500,000 dip into the fund balance, the board-in addition to the school's request-added to the expected draw. If there are no further additions or cuts in a coming work session, the $500,000 figure would be increased to about $1 million.

Still, there are some unknowns for the coming budget year that could make the draw less-the cost for housing prisoners at Piedmont Regional Jail-and whether a new landfill cell will have to be constructed. Bartlett has factored $700,000 as the County's share for costs associated with the jail, but the figure could drop if the Department of Justice accepts certain medical protocols and the possible lowering of medical services costs from anticipated costs as well as funding from more prisoners housed at the facility from a locality outside of the region. Should the County have to close the landfill this year that has been projected to cost $1,150,500.

Among the consensus areas reached by the board in their budget work session:

*The Farmville/Prince Edward Library would be funded at an adjusted request of $204,663, $38,104 more than what Bartlett had proposed.

*Farmville Volunteer Fire Department will receive the same amount of funds as it has in the past, increasing the bottom line by $24,403. Each of the departments would continue to receive the same amount as previously funded.

*The YMCA would receive a total of $168,000, an increase of $23,000 for summer camp. They had requested $45,000 for County programs (an increase of $20,000), but the board held to level funding.

Health Insurance

A procedural error by Chairman William “Buckie” Fore reopened the discussion door on the County's health insurance plan. The board, in an earlier work session, had seemingly agreed to switch plans for workers from a plan that factored a $250 deductible to a $500 deductible for the single subscriber. (The County pays the premium for County workers with employees who seek additional coverage in dual or family plans paying the difference.)

In the previous work session, Vice-Chairman Howard Simpson had made a motion to leave the health care plan as it is; Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt offered a substitute motion for the new plan.

Supervisors then voted to determine the main motion and, on a 6-2 vote, Gantt's substitute motion was determined to be the main motion. The board, however, failed to take another vote to formally approve the new health care plan.

The board revisited the issue Tuesday and, on a 4-4 vote (with supervisors Fore, Gantt, Jim Wilck and Robert “Bobby” Jones in favor of the new plan and Simpson, Howard “Pete” Campbell, McKay, and Pattie Cooper-Jones opposed), effectively killed Gantt's motion. (A tie vote defeats a motion.) Supervisors needed clarification that they did not need to formally approve the renewal and it is not the case for it to take effect.