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Reductions balance budget

Prince Edward school board members have agreed to reduce spending in instruction, transportation and administration to balance its budget for the upcoming 2016-17 fiscal year.

The preliminary net revenue shortfall fell at $411,172, according to the school division.

The county board of supervisors level funded the division for the 2016-17 operating year at $8.3 million. The school board had asked for additional funds.

One of the budgetary moves included reducing the beginning salaries for newly hired teachers.

“As we went through the current budget and we went through the different lines (we examined our) expenditures …,” said Cindy Wahrman, director of finance for the school division, regarding starting teacher salaries. “When we look at instruction and you’re looking at teachers … you have teachers (who) retire with years of experience, they’re going to be at a higher (salary).”

Russell Dove

Russell Dove

She said while not every replacement teacher will be at a beginning salary, the salaries are often similar.

“There is $78,427 … that we can reduce our expenditures,” Wahrman said.

Superintendent Dr. David Smith said this leaves budgetary flexibility.

“You never know when additional teachers may have to be hired at the beginning or later in the year,” he said. “We factored that in and applied the same thinking to each line.”

In addition to a reduction in the new teacher hires salary, a $27,745 reduction in the copier maintenance contracts at all three schools reduced the budget while still leaving flexibility in that area.

“This is a reduction in the line from which the leases are paid,” Smith said.

Wahrman said an additional $10,000 in expenditure reductions could be taken from purchased services, specifically by switching from the teacher observation and evaluation software PD 360.

“We’re going to TalentEd,” Wahrman said. She said the software is similar, however, the technology is $10,000 cheaper.

Smith said the new software will be more effective.

According to information from the division, tuition for dual enrollment courses at Southside Virginia Community College is currently paid in full by the school division for each student each semester.

“The school division then receives reimbursement funds representing the total tuition amount, less the fee for each course taught by a SVCC teacher. The new process will require the school division to pay for the difference between the total tuition cost and the reimbursement amount for the school division,” school documents state.

Wahrman said in the past, the net result has been as low as $19,000. “It frees up $180,000 in funds for the budget,” she said.

Under administration, reductions were made regarding other benefits, unemployment insurance and a maintenance contract for the fiscal hardware system.

“Over the last several years, there has been $20,000 that has not been used,” said Wahrman. In the past, she said these other benefits have been utilized for retiree health insurance or special items for the superintendent.

Unemployment insurance saw a reduction in $25,000 and the fiscal hardware system maintenance contract was reduced by $5,000 in light of upgrades to the current financial operation system.

Wahrman said the current system had not been upgraded in 10 years.

Finally, $175,000 in expenditure reductions were made in transportation for fiscal year 2016-17.

The budget saw a $75,000 reduction in bus driver and aide salary funding, and a $100,000 reduction in fuel.

“We need to maintain flexibility for additional drivers and aides,” Wahrman said.

Smith said he was insistent on not cutting positions and programs during the budget balancing, because that area had been hit hard in the budget over the last several years.

He said 78 total positions had been lost in the last five years.

Hampden District Representative Beulah Womack said she would like to look at giving teachers a better raise next year.

“Maybe we’ll have people staying and we can be competitive to other school districts around us,” she said.

Buffalo District Representative and School Board Chairman Russell Dove said with the new superintendent coming in, he wanted to makes sure funds were not too tight with no room for changes. “I just hate to see someone come in handicapped,” he said.

Smith said in-depth reductions were not made in instruction, which is where the most flexibility is.