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Schools outline need for more local funds

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Henry County Public Schools needs $450,533 (2.7 percent) more funding from the county government in fiscal year 2014-15 than it was appropriated this year, schools Superintendent Jared Cotton told the board of supervisors Tuesday.

Cotton made a budget presentation at a joint meeting of the county school board and board of supervisors.

Cotton said the revenue projection is based on the governor’s proposed budget released Dec. 16 and on the most conservative estimate of the projected number of county students (6,926).

The governor’s budget indicates state funds to Henry County Schools would increase from $43,908,705 to $45,648,202. That’s an increase of $1,198,333 after allowing for an additional state appropriation of $541,164 to give school division employees a 2 percent raise effective Jan. 1, 2014.

Among the budget challenges are continuing the 2 percent pay raise for all employees, an 8 percent increase in health insurance premiums, an increase in the employer contribution rate to the Virginia Retirement System from 11.66 percent to 14.5 percent and some retirement costs related to a hybrid plan.

Cotton said other budget challenges include continued increase in utility costs and instability of fuel costs, and continued challenge to find funding to meet increasing capital needs.

According to Cotton and Dawn Lawson, the school division’s chief financial officer, here’s specifically why the $450,533 is needed:

• A revenue shortfall of $161,616 is projected. Estimated revenues from all sources — based on 2013-14 grant and funding levels — are $73.04 million, and estimated expenses based on prior year expenditures are $73.2 million.

Most of the $161,616 shortfall — $151,616 — is projected because of VRS, health insurance adjustments, etc.

The remaining $10,000 of the shortfall is to increase funding to cover increased fees due to raises provided by the county to school resource officers.

• $79,712 to add three health office assistants to serve elementary schools.

• $37,407 to adjust contracts of two curriculum staff employees from 10 months to 12 months.

• $52,116 to restore a general maintenance position to support facilities/maintenance. This person would do some repair maintenance that the school division is having to hire contractor(s) to do as well as do preventive maintenance.

• $55,712 to restore a position to support budget/finance.

• $60,740 to restore stipends for academic and athletic coaches to the 2011 level, including FICA/Medicare.

• $3,230 to employ summer “student” interns for facilities/maintenance, especially painting.

The school division is requesting a total of $17,028,428 in county funds for FY 2015.

The school division has had level county funding of $16,577,895 for this year and the two previous years, according to figures Lawson provided. The year before that, 2010-11, the school division received $17,077,895 in county funds.

Cotton said he got input from a number of advisory groups in developing the budget. The student advisory group usually rates technology as the highest priority but this year rated safety as the top priority, he said.

He added he is not requesting county funds for additional school resource officers. He said the school division has made security/safety improvements, such as more secure entrances, more drills and safety audits.

Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant expressed concerns about the security of students in school modular buildings.

Collinsville Primary and Stanleytown and Sanville elementary schools all have modular buildings, officials said.

Cotton said he also is concerned about security of students in annexes at John Redd Smith Elementary because they also are not in the main building.

Cotton also noted the proposed FY 2015 budget includes a 10-cent mandatory increase in lunch prices.

Cotton and Joe DeVault, chairman of the school board, asked the board of supervisors to consider county funding for the school division as an investment. Cotton mentioned a number of achievements and recognitions of the school division in academics, effective and efficient use of resources, technology and high-quality staff.

Supervisors Chairman H.G. Vaughn said the board of supervisors “has a record of being pro-education.” That includes providing funding for such things as a laptop computer initiative in schools and the development of Warrior Tech Academy at Magna Vista High School, among others.

“Unfortunately over the years, the economy has made it a challenge for all of us,” he said.

County Administrator Tim Hall said county government faces many of the same challenges as the school division, including higher retirement and health insurance costs, but that he will do everything possible to recommend county funding division to enable it to continue its current operations and to help the school division grow.

“We’ll do the best we can do,” he said.

“New revenue (for the county) is virtually nonexistent,” Hall said. The county has had some success in economic development announcements, but it takes six years before the county realizes significant revenue from a new or expanded business, he said.


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