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Culley budget trims School Board request

Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm

When Caroline Public Schools Superintendent brought a revised budget proposal to the School Board at its meeting earlier this month, he recommended further reducing the school division’s request for county funds in the next fiscal year.

The School Board had tentatively agreed at its January meeting to seek an additional $2.7 million in county funds for the next budget cycle that begins July 1.

At its regular meeting Feb. 11, it agreed – voting 6-0 – to Killough’s latest recommendation to ask for an additional $1.6 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year school budget.

Vice chairman George Spaulding noted it would still be an uphill struggle for funding with the Board of Supervisors, however.

“It’s going to be a battle,” he said.

In the FY 2013-14 budget he proposed to the Board of Supervisors last week, County Administrator Charles Culley recommended an additional $554,380 for the school division. That includes $451,110 to pay for a 3 percent raise for school division employees.

The raise would cost $868,000; the remaining funds to pay for it would come from increased state aid for schools ($264,000) and savings from eliminating reimbursement for resource officers ($152,890). The additional $103,708 Culley recommended for the school division would be for the lease-purchase of new school buses.

Spaulding and School Board chairman Nancy Carson have been holding preliminary budget talks in recent months with Supervisors Wayne Acors and Floyd Thomas. The discussions began late last year when Acors was still chairman and Thomas was vice chairman; Thomas is now chairman of the board. Some meetings also have included Killough and Culley.

Carson indicated this week she was caught off guard by Culley’s recommendation. “We had been assured,” she said, in those preliminary budget talks that there was support among the supervisors for increasing school spending up to $1.2 million. “That’s what we were going for.”

“Hopefully…they’ll give us more” than what Culley recommended, said Carson.

“It’s going to be a real struggle for us. I’m really concerned. I hope we’re going to have more work with than he’s proposing.”

The school division has been “cut and cut and cut” in recent years, she said.

“I know everybody is going through a crunch time,” she added, but school officials have substantially trimmed their budget request.

“I don’t know what to say at this point.”

In the recommendation he brought to the School Board at its Feb. 11 meeting, Killough proposed additional spending of $2.2 million. That includes a 4 percent pay raise for employees at a cost of $1.1 million, $727,521 for personnel and benefits, $153,600 for technology and software, $129,424 for supplies and materials, $27,500 for equipment, $20,000 for textbooks, and $15,000 for staff development.

The school division anticipates receiving an increase of $628,000 in state funds. Coupled with a slight reduction in federal funds, that put his recommendation for additional county funds at $1.6 million. The county’s total contribution to the school system would be $12.8 million.

The two boards will hold a joint work session on the school division’s capital improvement plan at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 and a joint budget work session March 26.

The School Board will hold a public hearing on its proposed budget at its regular March 11.

Killough already has made significant reductions in the budget requests initially made by department heads; those requests totaled $4.5 million.

At the School Board’s Feb. 11 session, he said the school system is “one of the most efficiently run school divisions in the state.”

At the same, he noted that enrollment has grown by about 200 students in recent years while employee salaries have been virtually frozen.

Caroline County Public Schools is ranked near the bottom in terms of per-pupil expenditures in recent years compared to other school divisions in Virginia. For fiscal year 2010 Caroline’s per-pupil spending was $8,838 – 126 of 132 public school divisions; in fiscal year 2011 the figure was $8,611 – 129.

Caroline also is ranked low in terms of local funding for schools that is above the amount required by the state. Using that as a measure, Caroline was ranked at 121 of 136 school systems in fiscal year 2010 and 113 of 135 in fiscal year 2011.