The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
Committees from the Franklin County Board of Supervisors and School Board may help pave the way for a smoother budgeting process next year.
That was a consensus reached during a joint meeting of the two boards Monday night.
The meeting, called by the school board, was organized to allow members of both boards to discuss how to change the often contentious budget process.
"Everything hinges on good communication between the boards," said school board Chair Sarah Alexander. "The process can be improved on both sides."
Supervisors Chairman David Cundiff said one of the issues has been the gathering of facts and figures as early as possible to allow supervisors to not only understand the schools' needs but to educate the public as well.
Cundiff was referring to the budgeting process earlier this year when "things changed and were added" to the school budget late in the process.
School board member Bill Brush said establishing committees from each board to meet regularly before the budgeting process begins would help.
"That's one of the things we just recently did," he said, referring to the organization of a committee representing the schools. He and fellow board member G.B. Washburn will represent the school board.
Other members of that committee could be schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Church and finance director Lee Cheatham.
Two supervisors as well as county staff representatives would be on the county's committee.
The idea, Brush said, is to get together "earlier and more frequently" to establish an understanding of the issues that committee members could then share with other board members.
"We need a continuing dialogue," he said.
Washburn said the relationship between the two boards is always "good" until the budgeting process starts, with things getting "really tense" by April, when budgets are finalized.
"We need to have some plan to keep us communicating so everybody is on the same page," he said.
"Forming committees would help keep those lines of communication open," agreed Alexander.
Julie Nix, who was appointed to the school board to replace former chairman Ed Jamison when he resigned earlier this year, asked when the supervisors would select their committee representatives.
Cundiff said supervisors would select their committee members by the board's regular meeting on Oct. 15.
Blue Ridge Supervisor Bobby Thompson said the committees could watch "hot button issues" and help do a better job of projecting needs and finances.
"We need to know with some accuracy where we will end up (financially)," he said, referring to the schools' carryover funding, money not spent during any given school year. "The disparity (between what is predicted and the final tally) should be minimized."
"That's one of the areas we have identified as needing improvement," she said. "We're working on it. It's an ongoing process."
Thompson also stressed the importance of planning, especially when it comes to asking for a tax increase for schools and justifying the request.
"The more we communicate, the more we trust each other," he said.
Nix said it's important to get financial numbers nailed down as soon as possible and identify any reasons why those numbers may change.
"We are all on the same team," she said, stressing the need to work together more closely.
Church said it is important for the schools to discuss needs, but it's a misconception to think schools now have everything they need.
The county's graduation rate is one of the lowest in the region and alternative education is lacking, he said.
"We really don't have the money to operate (more effectively)," he said. "We can't afford many programs (that can help keep students in school)."
"Graduation rate directly impacts economic growth," Alexander said. "We need a ready workforce."
Alexander said determining where cuts are made is a difficult process.
"The impact of cuts is now so pervasive to the school system," she said.
School board member Crystal Naff said the effects of cuts are not always seen immediately but they are being seen now.
These are not just school issues, Church said, they are community issues, and everyone must work together.
Plans for a new career and technical education center is a "good example" of working together because it's a project that both boards and the community support, Church said.
He also said any questions supervisors have can be answered.
"If you have a specific question, pick up the phone and call the person who can provide the answer," he said. "We all have the same goals, and we can talk and work it (any issue) out."
"Dialogue helps everyone understand where others are coming from," Cundiff said.
He and others described the joint meeting as a "good start."