|Includes request of $4.3 million more in local funding|
Friday, March 14, 2014
By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer
Facing a projected shortfall and a list of mandates and needs, the Franklin County School Board presented its adopted budget for fiscal year 2014-15 to the board of supervisors Tuesday night.
That budget totals $87.2 million, with $38.3 of that requested money from the county, a $4.3 million increase in local funding.
Sarah Alexander, school board chairman, opened the presentation by saying the proposed budget is "fair, well-crafted and transparent."
Alexander also said the budget was "mindful" of the current economic climate and the difficult decisions supervisors face.
Dr. Mark Church, school superintendent, then reviewed the proposed budget with the board of supervisors, pointing out that the schools had to cut $1 million from the current budget and that most of the carryover funding this year, about $660,000, is being used to buy school buses.
He reminded the board that many of the schools' budget woes have been the result of state cuts, which have totaled more than $7 million over the last few years.
Although the school system will receive about $1.2 million more in state funding next year, that money has to be used to cover mandates and on programs that are required for matching funds. Those mandates include about $1.3 million for a Virginia Retirement System rate increase.
With the mandates and matching fund expenditures alone, the schools are facing an almost $300,000 shortfall even with the extra state funding and an already projected increase of almost $600,000 in local funding.
The list of priorities beyond the mandates and matching fund expenditures, Church said, are driven by many factors, including the need for programs to curb the rise in the dropout rate, provide more counselors and administrators, deal with rising health care insurance costs and purchase school buses.
Church also said students want classes that are either not available or already filled to capacity.
"We are not meeting the needs of the students or the community," he said.
Technology is another expense, he said, as textbooks are not being purchased and students must rely on computers and other devices.
Supervisors gave no indication of how much, if any, help the board will give.
At this point, the only increase in local funding is that $600,000, which is a share of the $1.1 million projected increase in county revenue next year.
However, board members have discussed the possibility of a tax hike, especially a scenario that would increase the real estate tax from the current 54 cents on each $100 of assessed value to 56 cents. That would bring in almost $1.3 million in extra revenue next year, with the county and schools splitting the money.
That would help both the schools and the county cover mandated expenses for next year.
The board has also discussed an increase in the personal property tax rate, money that would be set aside to help pay for future major capital projects.
But the board has discussed no scenario where the school system would receive a significant part of the extra $4.3 million requested.
The budget ball is now in the supervisors' park as they continue to work on a finalized budget. That must be completed in time to be presented at a public hearing on April 15.
A final county budget for 2014-15 is scheduled to be adopted on April 22.