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Study is updated on joining schools

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If the city of Martinsville reverts to a town, its largest savings — nearly $22 million — would come from consolidating its school division with Henry County’s system.

That is according to an evaluation of the prospective financial impact of Martinsville’s reversion to town status that was presented Monday to Martinsville City Council.

The presentation included “A Study to Explore the Feasibility for Consolidation of the Martinsville City and Henry County School Divisions.”

The 156-page, 1-inch thick study was prepared by S. John Davis & Associates Ltd. of Norfolk. It updates a 2002 study of consolidating the county and city schools done by the late state superintendent of

instruction S. John Davis, among others. That study was completed in 2004 but was shelved.

The latest study does not make a recommendation on whether the divisions should be consolidated. It presents information and data so policymakers can make an informed decision on the subject, it states. It includes an assessment of resources; analysis of instructional programs and services; performance evaluation; state and local financing; personnel costs; capital facilities; and observations, findings and summary of the information, among other things.

It notes that both school systems have had declining enrollment and financial issues.

“Economic and demographic trends affecting the Henry County and Martinsville City School Divisions raise concerns about the future of both school divisions,” the study states. It adds that adequate state funding for public education “appears to be increasingly suspect, which then shifts an even greater fiscal responsibility to the localities ... additional local funds will be required to support current educational programming.

“Efficiencies through a consolidated system could be realized by combining central office administration” as well as the student transportation system, food services, academic programming, co-curricular activities, operation and maintenance services, human resources, budget and fiscal functions and “unitary school board,” it states.

Consolidation also could result in a boost in state aid possibly ranging from $612,686 to $1,230,197 under the state’s Consolidation Incentive Program, which provides additional state funds to consolidated systems, the study states. The increase would depend on the Local Composite Index (LCI, which measures a locality’s ability to pay) used to determine the state aid.

In the review of employee compensation and fringe benefits, the study states that consolidation of the systems could result in cost savings by reducing administrative positions. Reducing 11.5 administrative positions would accrue salary savings, including fringe benefits, of about $1,035,000, it adds.

There is a 4 percent difference between Martinsville schools’ pay scale and Henry County’s, with the city being the lower, Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki said while presenting the report to Martinsville City Council on Monday. To determine personnel costs resulting from consolidation, the study considered four options:

• Adopting the lower of the two salary scales (Martinsville’s) and immediately placing county personnel on the city’s salary scale;

• Adopting the city scale but holding the county personnel “harmless” at their current salary levels during a two biennia transition period until the personnel became equalized through cost of living or other adjustments;

• Adopting a salary scale with specified salaries for experience and earned degrees for employees of both systems, determined by medians or mid-points between the two divisions.

• Adopting the county salary scale and immediately placing city personnel on that scale.

Using a combination of those four methods, the study lists six options for potential costs, cost savings and additional state aid realized from the Consolidated Incentive Program (see related story). They result in cost savings ranging from $1.2 million to $3.8 million.

“The above combination of policy decisions all contain cost savings resulting from the reduction of administrative personnel that likely would be very controversial,” it states, adding that decisions on the number of administrative personnel would be up to school officials.

In a review of facilities, the study notes that both divisions have closed schools and made improvements to others since the earlier study. However, it states that despite renovations, Patrick Henry Elementary in Martinsville “remains less than a suitable facility.”

 

 
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