The Botetourt County School Board budget committee FY09-10 met for the first time to discuss the state funding cuts to Botetourt County schools this morning at 8:30 a.m. The schools will have a proposed $2,198,000 cut in funding from the state of Virginia as it struggles to manage a $2.9 billion reduction in revenues in the general fund.
School Board Chairman Kathy Sullivan opened the session with her concerns about taking a step backward because as she said, “We have worked so hard to get where we are today with our quality program.”
Those present included administrators, all five school board members and two members ad hoc on the committee from the board of supervisors-Don Assaid and Billy Martin. Jerry Burgess, County administrator, sat in on the meeting as well as reporters, a BEA rep and an interested citizen from Buchanan, Tom Wilbon, who has been coming to the input meetings.
Botetourt County Public Schools is the largest employer in Botetourt County. Teachers and staff have been worried about possible lay-off and staffing reductions as evidenced in the first budget input meeting when twenty of them attended the meeting at James River High School to air those concerns.
The first 45 minutes Dr. Tony Brads the school superintendent explained the state budget cuts and how they reflect many cuts to the Standards of Quality, how monies are based on average daily membership (ADM), composite index and the rearrangement of lottery funds in the state budgeting process. He even mentioned the car tax and how that took money away from localities.
He covered other state budget concerns that included the proposed funding cap for basic aid support that results in $1.48 million of the budget fund reduction to the school division, school construction grant monies, lottery funding and stated the effects of all of the cuts that will certainly impact students and instruction. Botetourt County’s ADM is down about 50 students, said assistant Superintendent John Busher after the meeting. The funding figures for next year will be based on the March 30 ADM.
The budget input meetings earlier this month were scored with both administration and school board members encouraging parents and citizens to contact legislators and ask that the SOQ cuts not be made permanent. There is also a trend, Brads said, for the legislators to look at moving the 55 percent to 45 percent state to local funding to a more of a 50-50 proposition. Botetourt County is already assisting the school division by overfunding positions above the current SOQ’s in things like building principals, elementary guidance counselors and so forth.
The bottom line at the end of the morning is that the division has found $1,556,436.81 in the proposed budgeted areas to reduce. That still leaves a $642,195 shortfall, which is about a 3 percent increase from last year’s ask to the county for the school board to consider.
Brads proposed to Assaid, who is chairman of the board of supervisors and asked where the money might come from that perhaps, one-third of the money, about $400,000, could come from the Capital Reserve Fund established for the division last summer by the Board of Supervisors. That would leave a little over $242,000 that might be an additional ask from last year’s budget request. Keep in mind this is only a proposal. Scott Swortzel, Blue Ridge School Board member said they will study the figures and come back to the next budget meeting on Feb. 12 at 5:00 p.m. with a better idea of what steps will be taken next in the process.