Goochland voters chose well when they selected a new school board at last November’s election.
Two years ago, a handful of parents took a hard look at the proposed school budget and questioned, in detail and in vain, the thought processes used in crafting that fiscal document. Now, many of them are on “the other side of the table” and have been quite open about they made their decisions.
One month after they took office, the new school board voted on a budget for fiscal year 2012-13, which begins on July 1. Although the proposed budget is complete, the school board indicated that they will continue to ferret out slack in the budget and redirected those funds to the classroom.
“This is the product of many late nights and does not reflect our endgame. Our work is not yet done,” board chair Beth Hardy District 4 said. “We still don’t know how much it costs to run our schools.”
The new school board went through the budget, line by line juggling mandated costs that have little room for adjustment and trying to plan for other expenses, like bus fuel.
Given the near glut of natural gas, it might be prudent to explore using that fuel to power our bus fleet. The cost of conversion could be prohibitive, but might be a long term way to get a handle on this volatile expense. There was no time to address that this year.
Board vice chair John Wright, District 5 explained that the school board will continue to identify savings to fund a list of identified “add backs.”
Contingency funds were established as repositories for as yet unidentified savings until they can be reappropriated as required by law. This will provide flexibility as the school year unfolds and, hopefully, eliminate significant left over funds in June.
The proposed school budget, which was sent to the supervisors on February 2, cuts no teachers, a fulfillment of campaign promises and good news for our kids.
Adjustments include reduction of the number of days worked by administrative personnel; employee contributions for benefits and reductions in amounts budgeted for items like electricity. (Go to www.glnd.k12.va.us for full details on the school board tab.)
The matter of custodial services hs not been resolved. An outsourcing proposal reduced the cost of this function by about $190,000. There are too many questions about job loss and pay reduction for current janitors for comfort.
A petition with 310 names protesting the outsourcing of custodial services was presented at the meeting. The current scheme could eliminate jobs and reduce salary for current custodians.
Kevin Hazzard, District 2 said that he is not comfortable with the proposal for this item used in the budget and that additional bids with stipulations including retention of current employees will be sought.
“We know what we’re doing here effects people,” John Lumpkins District 3 said.
He contended that the best way to reduce the unemployment rate long term is to work toward a hundred percent graduation rate.
Each board member commented thoughtfully on the budget.
“Our eyes were opened wide,” said Michael Payne District 1. “When you touch one thing something else goes out of balance.”
Hazzard said that the budget is the result of a lot of
hard decisions and many 20 hour days.
The entire board thanked superintendent of schools Dr. Linda Underwood and her staff for their cooperation and hard work.
“We are learning at warp speed,” Hardy said. “There was so much we wanted to do with this budget that we can’t do. We wanted to be fair while streamlining administration and operations and focus on the classroom.
”This is a pivotal year, Hardy said. The school board is working hard to earn the trust of the supervisors and citizens.We get it. These are your schools.”
The board of supervisors will be faced with dreadful budgetary choices this year. Schools consume a little more than all of the real estate taxes collected by the county. Lower assessments mean lower taxes and fewer dollars for schools. Finding funds for the remainder of county services will be hard.
Mirrors have been packed away and smoke machines turned off. We’re getting hard numbers based on facts. The picture isn’t pretty, but it is honest. Our new school board is to be commended for its hard work, which has just begun.
These fine folks deserve our thanks and our trust.