Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.
BOS to review budget cuts
The Caroline County Board of Supervisors rejected the staff recommended $825,439 in cuts to the proposed budget.
Those cuts, presented Tuesday night, included a $200,000 reduction to the school system, which caused an uproar amongst a large crowd of educators and the board.
“A $200,00 cut to the school system is way out of line,” said Western Caroline Supervisor Jeff Black, who is also a teacher in Spotsylvania County. “I didn’t think we were lobbying the state for more money for the schools so we could take it back from the local contribution. I have a huge problem with that number.”
The auditorium–filled with mainly teachers, parents and educators–erupted in a long applause and led board chairman Wayne Acors to get order by announcing to the crowd that neither clapping or booing is allowed in the bylaws.
The public hearing was later closed after a school administrator made comments that criticized the board’s decision to allow only one school representative to speak.
“Walk through our schools and you’ll see that our kids deserve bettter, teachers deserve better and we’re going to always stand up for our kids,” said Caroline High assistant principal Becky Elam. “Take it however you want to Mr. Acors, but we’ll support our kids no matter what.”
Another loud round of applause from school supporters filled the auditorium, and the public comment period was immediately shut down, angering others that wanted to speak.
After a request was made, a handful of residents were allowed to speak on non-school issues.
“I really truly felt badly about having to close the public comment,” Acors said later. “But I’m more disappointed that 90 percent, if not all, were teachers in our school system. I wonder what they would have done if it was one of their students [acting that way].
School Superintendent Greg Killough was disappointed that a cut was proposed without consulting him, especially since the school board was promised that they’d get level funding of $11.5 million from the county.
Bowling Green Supervisor Jeff Sili, who once sat on the school board, also disagreed with the cut.
“I thought our goal was to work closer together and here we are making decisions without them,” he said.
The board agreed that they would review the other reductions and meet with the school board on May 16 at Lewis & Clark Elementary to discuss other options.
Charles Culley, Caroline’s new county administrator, said spending needs to be reduced as much as possible and the cuts offered would require a reduction in programs.
“I recommend that each proposed reduction be cautiously evaluated by the board to determine the impact on the program and the citizenry prior to deciding if the cut should be made,” Culley said.
Other staff-recommended cuts included a $7,500 reduction to the Chamber of Commerce, saving $87,000 by eliminating the Victory Park project in Bowling Green and decreasing contributions to outside agencies by 5 percent.
Sheriff Tony Lippa said a 22 percent cut has been made to his operations budget and his department can’t take another cut without laying off personnel.
At the last meeting, the board voted to eliminate a tax break for volunteer firefighters because it cost the county more than $10,000 a year than they had expected. Instead, they plan to replace the tax break with a $15,000 annual stipend that would be shared equally among eligible volunteers.
Two tax increases, which will add about $1.8 million in revenue, were also approved at the last meeting. The real estate tax was increased by 4 cents to 72 cents per $100 of assessed value and the personal property tax saw a 38-cent increase to $3.50 per 100 percent of assessed value.
“The pie is only so big and we do the best we can to divide it out among the county,” said Port Royal Supervisor Calvin Taylor. “When we have to make cuts, it’s simply because the funding is not there.”
The board meets again on May 22.