Middle and high school athletics face elimination in Botetourt schools as they present an $800,000 savings in the School Budget. As well, school administrators introduced as an “and/ or” the closure of one elementary school. Students would be funneled to other schools and about 2/3rds of the teachers to the other schools.
In Botetourt County, Thursday March 22 was a bad day for the FY 13 Botetourt School Division budget committee. Deep cuts have to be made to balance the budget.
The news for the past two days in Botetourt has been bad news on the FY 13 budget as the Board of Supervisors Committee received it as well. With the last minute addition of a 5 % pay increase to offset 5% VRS contributions on March 12 as they adjourned, ( (Senate Bill 497)the General Assembly added another $600,000 in the red ink bringing the total budget deficit to 3.6 million in Botetourt County. For the schools the deficit is now $1.254 million after making called for reductions by the county last week to the tune of an additional $1 million. The deficit was reduced to $889, 732.
The School Division budget funding is the largest part of the Botetourt County budget. It is purely funded by outside sources like the Commonwealth of Virginia and Botetourt County as a locality. Funding at almost 50%-48 % for state and local funds and some small funds from the Federal level. Several School and County Associations have sent Gov. Bob McDonnell a letter asking for the amendment to the Senate Bill 497 requiring the 5% raise to offset the 5 % VRS contribution needed by employees in an already difficult budget year. Yet, the state issued mandates to the tune of $2.5 million. Botetourt County Schools employs 750 personnel making it the largest employer in Botetourt County. As Brads said, “People are a major part of our service.”
The cuts in the past week included eight education funds positions, suspend the CIP activity on the LBHS roof, suspend bus replacement cycle. But that still left the school division $889,732.00 in the red. With the budget clock ticking toward April 1, when the budget must be sent to the Supervisors, the whittling process begins to go past the bone. Ruth Wallace Chairman said, “What a shame we have come to this point.”
School board members were shocked and for Kathy Sullivan it seemed a nightmare, commenting, “We have 7 community elementary schools. Which one is no longer a community school? ” and, “We have athletes who get so much out of our programs. It just makes me sick.” Almost 1,600 students play sports on the two secondary levels. None of the school board members were in favor of cutting instruction and salaries of teachers and staff. But here are the results for potential consideration. Michael Beahm stated, “We have no choice as this is another thing sent from the state level back to the local level. This will impact the students of Botetourt County.” Scott Swortzel was not sure he wanted a line by line budget scrutiny in a public meeting as the average person would not understand the budget and comment on small items rather than the budget as a whole. But all agreed some thing must be said.
Here are the considered cuts:
Elimination of Instructional programs: Items mentioned were Governor’s School Art, Music and and or PE on the elementary level, remove classes that are beyond core classes and return them to core levels, class size enlargement, CTE classes to name a few.
Elimination of the retirement service plan
Elimination of Middle School Athletics
Elimination of High School Athletics
Institute “pay for play” policy to create a new revenue for athletics
School Closure on the elementary level
On Tuesday night March 27 at 6 p.m in the LBHS auditorium, the Board of Supervisors is taking input on the problematic FY 13 budget.
John Alderson of Fincastle District took the bold step to say he would prefer athletics eliminated rather than the school. “Really we have an opportunity on Tuesday night to tell our story of years of reductions. Inevitability it is time to have a conversation on a tax increase. We would have to have the county look at it and what per cent. ”
The board members, after much lamenting and discussion, asked Superintendent Dr. Tony Brads to address the issue at the BOS public hearing budget public input meeting on March 27.
The School Board has its public hearing on the budget on March 29 for submission to the Board of Supervisors prior to April 1.
The school board encouraged Brads to get the word out to parents and students. Brads said, ” We have no control over revenue and mandates are also beyond our control.”