Board approves tax increase, supervisors level fund schools
Published 10:18 pm Saturday, April 30, 2016
In approving a 2-cent increase in the county’s real estate tax rate Thursday as part of a $52 million budget, Prince Edward County supervisors unanimously voted to level fund the county schools.
The approved budget gives the division $8,317,182 in local funds, over $300,000 more than recommended by County Administrator Wade Bartlett but less than the $752,402 in additional local funds requested by the school board.
The tax increase brings the real estate tax rate from 49 cents per $100 of assessed value to 51 cents.
If approved, a withdrawn motion by Prospect District Supervisor the Rev. Dr. Calvin Gray would have allocated the school’s revised request of more than $750,000 in local money.
The total school budget approved is $24.9 million, excluding the cafeteria budget.
“Obviously if we did fund this, we’d have to go into the (general fund) for a right sizable amount,” said Lockett District Supervisor and Vice Chairman Robert M. “Bobby” Jones. He said he was willing to go to $300,000 but not the $750,000.
Leight District Supervisor Jerry Townsend, who offered the motion to level fund the schools, said the $317,183 would “split the difference of their request. But, I do feel that, with a new superintendent coming on board, they shouldn’t be starting in the red. And I do feel that we shouldn’t be taking anything away at this point in time.”
Before Gray’s motion, Buffalo District Supervisor C.R. “Bob” Timmons offered a motion, which he also withdrew, to fund the schools at Bartlett’s recommended $8 million, which was based on the schools’ enrollment figures.
“The approval of local level funding is helpful, which provides an additional $317,182 above the advertised $8 million local funding level,” said Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith. “This is still a shortfall of $432,954 below the revised school board funding request, which included required expenditure increases for 2016-17 to cover the increased cost of health insurance, (Virginia Retirement System) contributions and an employee salary increase.”
“The board set a goal this year of no money from out (the) fund balance and to have a true balanced budget,” Timmons said. “With that, I guess, my problem I’m having is if we can make this without violating our goal. I may be able to support this.”
“I feel comfortable increasing the three revenue line items, that would be real estate, personal property and the sales tax,” Bartlett said. “And if we increase those … and if we do away with the increase in the general fund balance which we just reduced by $14,000, that would provide level funding, which is $317,182.”
The votes to adopt the increased tax rates and county budget were both unanimous.
The board also agreed to level fund the Crossroads Community Services Board, the Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library, Meals on Wheels, Piedmont Senior Resources, FACES and the Hampden Sydney First Responders, veering from the recommended across-the-board 20 percent budget cuts for outside agencies.
Board members also agreed to cut all funding to Southside Virginia Community College and reduced its funding of the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Longwood University Small Business Development Center. The amendments increased spending by over $14,000, Bartlett said.
During the budget and tax rates public hearing on April 19, 19 students, teachers, parents and citizens spoke in support of the revised budget request for $8.8 million in local funds that the Prince Edward County School Board asked for from the board of supervisors for fiscal year 2016-17..
Only one person, Richard Altice, spoke against the request for additional funds during the public hearing.
The revised request, presented by Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith, was for $752,402 in additional local funds. The original request was for an additional $1.6 million in funding.
According to Smith, the additional local funds would have added three elementary aides in grades K-1, funded a 2 percent salary increase for all employees, including the increase from the state, added an elementary school teacher to maintain the state ratio of teachers to students, maintained a signing bonus for new math, science and special education teachers, and covered a projected 15 percent increase in health insurance.
The school board is set to meet on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the supervisors’ funding.