PE Schools Focus On Funds

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, January 30, 2014

PRINCE EDWARD — It’s an early look at the coming year, but the County schools have some good news and some not so good news.

While there’s $253,659 more state dollars, on the minus side, an overall budget that includes reductions in other funds and fewer students could mean a request for more local contributions.

Though unlikely, should the governor’s proposed budget be passed as proposed and the school’s Average Daily Membership (ADM) holds at 2,135 (the estimated figure in the current budget year as of December 31), the schools would need just over $1 million more in local funding for the preliminary 2014-15 budget proposal.

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County school board members took an early look at funding matters in a budget work session last Wednesday. Already facing a $337,480 projected deficit for the current budget year (reflecting an anticipated ADM decrease and less than anticipated state sales tax funding) reflecting changes in the current budget as part of what is termed the governor’s caboose budget, the next budget cycle will have its own budget challenges.

Looking at the governor’s proposed budget and factoring an average daily membership of 2,135, the schools are scheduled to receive a funding increase of $253,659. However…

Federal funding would be reduced collectively $450,838 for Federal Title I (reading and math, it helps to provide outside services to students and helps provide support for teachers in those areas), Title II (for professional development for teachers), School Improvement (funds used specifically for school improvement in short-term grants), and Title VI, Pre-School Handicapped, and 6B Flow Thru (used for special education programs, including some toward teacher salaries).</p>

School board chairman Russell Dove asked about the federal funding for special education.

“It’s all part of the federal fund reductions,” explained the school’s Director of Finance Cindy Wahrman. “You know, it started out with sequestration and it’s moved forward…”

It is not, it was cited, linked to enrollment.

“There’s been no reduction in the accountability measures, either,” cited Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith. “That’s the thing that’s especially frustrating about this.”

School board member Beulah Womack asked with the decrease in special education funding “who’ll pick up all of that?”

The only two possible answers, Dr. Smith offered, are that some of it would have to be made up from local funds, “but there’s also the possibility that it could trigger a reduction in services where it’s allowable.”

Dr. Smith said they have gone in four years from approximately $950,000 in Title I funds to a projected $700,000. That, he cited, is “a huge, huge decline in Title I funding.”

While it’s not tied to special education, Dr. Smith said the “trend with federal funding is really putting pressure on the localities and causing school divisions everywhere to look at the possibility of reducing services to the bare minimum.”

In addition to federal reductions, the budget outline factors a reduction in Medicare reimbursements of $40,000 (reflecting declining revenues in recent years) and $15,000 in state funds for Governor’s School, with Prince Edward no longer the fiscal agent for the program.

Projected funding increases include a $413,200 increase in the Virginia Retirement System costs, factoring a proposed 3.11 percent rate increase, and (figuring a 10 percent increase in health insurance) $157,850.

Factoring reductions in the governor’s school funds, adjustments in federally funded services, eliminating the school improvement specialist position, and a $92,536 reduction in debt service, the total preliminary expenditure reductions figure a net revenue shortfall of $184,855.

Still, school officials also discussed additional potential costs that would (based on the governor’s budget proposal and an ADM of 2,135) translate into an overall increase of $1,060,290 in local operational funds.

Penciled in expenditures include: a proposed two percent increase for all school employees, $371,900; place current teachers on the correct salary scale, $50,761 (there currently about 50 affected teachers); adding five elementary kindergarten classroom aides, $150,000 (the positions were cut in a tight budget two years ago), to be shared among the nine classes; an elementary school-requested increase in instructional materials, $400 essentially in the music department; middle school bookkeeper, $44,260 (the middle and elementary schools currently share a position); requested increase at the middle school for tables and carts $2,650; high school requested increase for career technical center textbooks, science equipment and replacement scoreboards for the gym and soccer field $41,300 (with most of the cost going to textbooks); two buses $190,289; and maintenance requested a replacement lawn mower and a replacement van, $23,875.

The additions total $875,435, but coupled with the projected funding shortfall of $184,855, it would mean $1,060,290 in additional local operational funds.

County supervisors and the school board are scheduled to meet this evening (Thursday) in a joint meeting to discuss the preliminary school request.

State funding totals are almost certain to change for all localities as the General Assembly works its way through the budget process and competing House of Delegates and Senate budgets are developed. The preliminary $25,905,246 proposal factors $1,784,679 in federal funds, $14,298,187 in state funds, $415,290 in other category funds, and $9,407,090 in local funds.

Local operational funding for schools has increased from $7,118,525 in 2010-11, to $7,345,045 in 2011-12, $7,534,255 in 2012-13 and $7,785,452 in the current year. However, overall school budgets have trended the other direction. The 2009-10 budget, for example, totaled $28.6 million, that dipped to $26.698 million in 2010-11, rose slightly to $27.15 million in 2011-12, fell to $25.67 million in 2012-13, and $25.1 million in 2013-14.