The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Friday, October 4, 2013
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
Two members of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors have been selected to serve on a budget committee in a move to build a better working relationship with the school board.
Blackwater District Supervisor Cline Brubaker and Gills Creek Supervisor Bob Camicia will begin meeting with two members of the school board, Bill Brush (Gills Creek) and G.B. Washburn (Snow Creek), as part of a joint effort between the two boards to establish better communication, especially related to the budgeting process.
During the last of the supervisors' retreat meetings for the year Wednesday, board members made the selection by ballot since four members had expressed interest in serving on the committee.
Prior to the vote, the board discussed details of the purpose of the committee, which will also include representatives of the county and school staff in most meetings.
The committee issue surfaced on Sept. 23 when supervisors met with the school board to air problems related to the often contentious budget process.
At that meeting, the school board suggested the committee idea and had already picked its two representatives.
Chairman David Cundiff said the board of supervisors would follow suit.
One of the main issues discussed by supervisors Wednesday related to the budget process was financial reports from the school system, which in the past have been criticized by the board as lacking details.
County Administrator Rick Huff said this is part of the "better communication element" between the two boards.
Huff presented several examples of school budget details that the board has questioned, including changes in the number of positions in the school system, staff turnover metrics (new vs. replaced, first-year vs. experienced), budget adjustments from previous years and average daily membership (ADM) updates.
All affect the schools' budget and keeping track of them would be helpful, several supervisors said.
Huff also presented specific examples from the school budget where changes occurred with no adequate explanation.
Blue Ridge Supervisor Bobby Thompson said that simply using a percentage number related to a budget detail has "little or no meaning."
"You look for exceptions in a budget and then you explain those exceptions (to be easily understood)," he said.
Thompson said more executive summaries are needed, offering explanations.
Brubaker said he was concerned that supervisors may be seen as "micromanaging."
"But what we're asking for is transparency," he said, an explanation of needs.
Boone District Supervisor Ronnie Thompson said his constituents are concerned about where their tax dollars are being spent.
"We (supervisors) are responsible (for taxpayers' money)," he said. "We just need clarification (as to the schools' needs and how money is spent)."
Snow Creek Supervisor Leland Mitchell said it should be made clear that it's up to the school board how they spend the money, but supervisors must decide what the overall budget is going to be.
To that, he and other supervisors said, they must be satisfied with the explanation of those needs.
Camicia said the budget committee could help clarify many issues.
"The school board needs to understand our issues as well," he said, and the committee could help serve that purpose.
Huff said another concern is related to how the school board budget is developed.
"Their methodology of building a budget is completely opposite of ours (the county's)," he said, explaining that the county budget is developed by starting with line items and building up to an overview.
The school system's budget is developed by basically taking last year's numbers and working from there, he said.
"How can you build a budget without line item details?" he asked. "We are making the suggestion to start at the line-item level so we can see what is going on there. It would be helpful for us to see those details."
Camicia said that is another problem in the budget process the committee could work on.
"Both boards want to do the right thing," he said.
Cundiff said another way to bring the two boards together would be to hire a facilitator, someone to help make sure everyone understands the function of members of both boards.
"This (a facilitator) is very much worthwhile," he said.
Huff said facilitators often work with boards to help iron out differences and establish better communications.
The facilitator, he said, interviews each member of both boards to get a handle on all of the issues, then meets with each board separately, and then with both boards.
Huff said the facilitators can be very effective.
The board gave Huff the go-ahead to clear the idea with members of the school board and, if they agree, to schedule a facilitator for some time after the upcoming election.
Camicia suggested that in the meantime committee representatives from both boards could meet and discuss details of what the committee wants to accomplish.
"Both boards should agree on the purpose and mission of the committee," he said, adding that when the committee is up and running members can report to their respective boards each month .
Supervisors also discussed working with schools to get a handle on possible county revenue as early as possible during the school year and to establish priorities related to school needs.