School staff weigh in on Cumberland budget

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, April 19, 2023

At the board of supervisors meeting on Tuesday, April 11, the week-long public hearing opened for the Cumberland budget for this fiscal year.

Until Tuesday, April 18, Cumberland residents were able to give their input on the County Administrator’s Proposed FY ’24 County Budget, the Proposed FY ’24 – FY ’28 Capital Improvement Program, Proposed School Board FY ‘24 Budget and the Proposed 2023 Tax Rates. 

After a brief summary of the budget, residents were quick to take the opportunity to make their thoughts known. 

Public comments on Cumberland budget

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During the public hearing portion for the budget, three members of Cumberland County Public Schools (CuCPS) spoke on current school funding. 

First, Dr. Elizabeth Jamerson, assistant superintendent for CuCPS spoke on how the school’s funding in the county budget does not meet the minimum set by the state. The school only asked for the minimum set and this budget does not award that. This means that the schools will not qualify for local matching or receive some of the other state funding, she said. According to Jamerson, only seven school districts in Virginia out of 134 did not meet the requirement last year. 

“Now every month Dr. (Chip) Jones comes to the meeting and tells you all the amazing things the students are doing and that the school is doing,” she said. “ It is unrealistic to expect that we would be able to provide the same level of services if we’re not funded. Something will have to be eliminated. However, there’s nothing that we can eliminate that won’t hurt somebody.”

Jamerson listed the sports, activities and programs that CuCPS provided its students to prepare for success and express their interests. She also listed how the buses are old and need replacing and how the teacher shortage has made it hard to hire and retain teachers. 

Wendy Tillett, assistant principal at Cumberland Elementary School also spoke to encourage the board to have the budget reach the minimum for the state. She argued that students these days need more than teaching, they need support and resources that take money. She praised the staff for stepping up and taking care of the students, but there’s a limit to what they can do. 

Ginny Gills, principal of Cumberland Elementary School was last to speak. She echoed many of the points already presented driving home the point that the students should be the priority. 

“It does cost money to provide what our students need,” Gills said. “It costs money to provide what our teachers need to serve our students and it costs money to hold onto our team when often they can make more money and pay less of health insurance in neighboring divisions.” 

According to Gills, Longwood is graduating fewer students with teaching degrees than in years past, which makes it even more essential to retain what they have and attract new teachers. With the students being the next generation of leaders, Gills encouraged the board to give the schools what they need to succeed. 

More budget highlights

The budget is proposed for $41,368,422. The general fund revenue is made up of taxes, permits, fees, fines and other regularly occurring revenue and is projected to be $18,843,333 with expenditure estimates of $9.6 million which goes into school funds, social services, debt services and other funds. 

According to County Administrator Derek Stamey, the real estate tax rate will remain at $.75 per $100. When approving the rate, the board can approve this tax rate at this or below. This rate won’t be a change for residents. 

As discussed in the budget workshop, raises in the budget include a 5% pay increase across the board for county staff and the county will absorb the 8.17% increase in health insurance. Other expenses include maintaining competitiveness for public safety positions and fully funding services for emergency medical services, leveling funding for the volunteer fire department and meeting the funding obligation for the school system. The budget also absorbs the one-time expenditure related to the reassessment contract. One beneficial change is adding a part-time animal control officer. The county currently has two officers that are currently working hard to keep up with the demand.