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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Schools facing another tough budget year

Friday, January 24, 2014

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

With a relatively flat revenue year predicted for Franklin County in 2014-15 and only a small increase in state funding expected, Franklin County schools are facing another tough fiscal year.

School Superintendent Mark Church presented the budget issues for the school year 2014-15 during a joint meeting between the supervisors and school board Tuesday night.

The meeting was part of a plan by both boards to get a jump on the budget process by examining issues as early as possible to avoid any misunderstandings, which have usually surfaced in the past.

As it stands now, the county is estimating a possible revenue increase next fiscal year of just over $1 million, according to county Finance Director Vincent Copenhaver. Of that, the schools would receive about $500,000 if projections are correct.

Church said state revenue may increase about $1 million.

Although the extra money would help, it still leaves many needs unfunded, at a tune of about $5 million, according to the figures Church presented to the supervisors.

Supervisors had requested the schools to prioritize needs ahead of time, and Church detailed a list of those priorities.

The additional revenue from the proposed state budget, just over $1 million, is not enough to cover the first priority Church listed, which is the schools' contribution to the Virginia Retirement System health care credit and group life insurance cost.

That totals more than $1.2 million.

The next priority is the VRS phase-in of an additional 1 percent toward employees' retirement, which is almost $200,000.

Additional state program costs total almost $500,000.

All of these, which total almost $2 million, Church said, are mandates driven by the state.

Most of the other priorities on the list are either bringing back positions and programs that have been cut in the past or enhancing initiatives to tackle problems, such as the increasing drop-out rate and decline in school ranking related to technology.

Those priorities, along with school bus replacements and a "step" salary increase, add another $3 million to what the school system sees as necessary to meet the needs of students.

Church said about $1 million was cut from the current year's budget, mostly in programs and positions, and that since 2008 the school system has trimmed a net of 78 positions.

During the joint meeting, the county also detailed its projected unfunded priorities for fiscal year 2014-15, and that totals $2.2 million.

Those priorities include increasing costs of the regional jail ($642,000), employee health insurance cost hike ($300,000), requested increase in part-time wages for the sheriff's office ($280,000) and an increase in Comprehensive Services Act costs ($150,000).

Supervisors were scheduled to meet Thursday evening to further discuss budget issues for fiscal year 2014-15.

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