School Avoids Deep Reduction
Published 3:38 pm Tuesday, May 20, 2014
PRINCE EDWARD — The County’s finance committee continued to wield the budget axe Monday night.
By the end of the evening, factoring cuts and increases in revenues, they had nearly $500,000 under what was proposed.
While the cuts would have an impact on those dependent on County contributions, the moves—should they stick in an ultimate recommendation to the full board of supervisors—would cut into a proposed eight cent increase in the real estate tax rate.
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The penciled-in cuts touch on many agencies funded by the County and constitutional offices, but the County’s schools would only be trimmed by about $92,000, or the scheduled reduction in debt service.
“…Basically, that level-funds the school this year, ’cause they don’t have the debt service to pay,” detailed Buffalo District Supervisor committee member C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr.
While the full board would have the say on school funding, as well as for all County departments, it would still be about $1 million less than the school board had requested. School officials have met and are discussing some potential cuts. (See related story page one.)
In related news, school officials have long had an eye on specific capital project needs. Declining debt service in coming years could open the door to addressing some of those needs. County Administrator Wade Bartlett cited that debt falls “quite a bit” in 2018-19. Depending on what they would want to do between the board and the school board, he noted they could do “several million dollars” without affecting current debt limits.
“We’re already in 2015, by the time you get this thing done and you’d start it’d be 2016 before we start building and you would just capitalize the interest for those couple of years before you then start paying off the debt service…,” he said.
School officials have discussed at length specific capital improvement project needs. A five-year plan includes in year one alone replacing classroom and office locks ($120,000), enclosing the fifth grade wing entryway to the main building ($83,774), roof replacement at the middle school ($1,201,643), roof replacement at the career tech center ($459,316), installing HVAC controls on all heating and cooling units ($143,100), replacing HVAC units at the middle school ($159,000), replacing three buses ($300,000).
In all, those projects would cost $2,466,833 with still other needs spanning out over the five years.
Meanwhile, the finance committee is scheduled to meet again Thursday, providing County entities scheduled for further cuts an opportunity to discuss their request. The committee is yet to finalize a recommendation and yet to be decided is whether the committee would favor dipping into the fund balance. Adding about $110,000 would lower funding needs get to approximately a four-cent real estate tax increase.
The County is projected to have an $8.2 million fund balance at the end of the fiscal year.