Cathy Dyson writes about King George County.
Supervisors fund school shortfall so school workers can get raises
King George supervisors agreed to make up the shortfall in this year’s school budget so that teachers, bus drivers and instructional aides can get a 2-percent pay raise, retroactive to Jan. 1.
“We do have your back,” Supervisor Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr. told the dozen people in the audience Tuesday. Most of them were school employees.
School Board and Board of Supervisors members spent almost an hour discussing the current school spending plan and why average daily attendance—down for the first time in 10 years—has caused a drop in state funding. The state gives King George $4,418 for each student, and because the average daily membership has dropped from 4,165 to 4,070, King George has lost $419,701 in funding.
The school system also has seen cost increases in other areas, such as transportation and special education, School Board Chairman Mike Rose said.
The School Board was able to whittle the shortfall down to $136,759, after applying money from the governor’s supplemental budget and a surplus from other revenues. The School Board also asked each school to trim costs, and that effort netted a savings of $75,000.
Supervisors said they were impressed by the hard look School Board members were taking at the budget, and that they were willing to fund the rest of the shortfall. They agreed to set aside $150,000 to transfer to the school system in April, when school officials will know for sure what the exact cost will be.
“I’m encouraged because you’re actually looking at the budget,” Supervisor Joe Grzeika said. “We get a read on your schools every month, and I think we’ve been looking at the school budget closer than some of the past School Boards.”
School Board members assured the supervisors their scrutiny would continue.
“We’re certainly not going to stop scrubbing the budget,” said Richard Randall.
Supervisors said they were committed to giving school employees the same increase as other county workers got the first of the year. That was the School Board’s plan, too, until new members and Superintendent Stanley Jones started analyzing the budget and discovered the shortfall.
Supervisors already said, before Tuesday’s meeting, that they wouldn’t reduce their contribution to schools because of the drop in student membership. The county gives $2,192 per student, and that amount, multiplied by the 95-student drop, totals $208,240.
Add that to the $150,000 the supervisors agreed to give on Tuesday, “and that’s a chunk of change,” Grzeika said.
Supervisor Ruby Brabo encouraged school officials to monitor temperatures in each school. She’s heard from her two daughters and from teachers over the years that schools are so cold, students wear winter coats during the warmer months. She cited a report that said there’s a 2-percent savings for every one degree a thermostat is adjusted.
As impressed as supervisors were with the work School Board members had done, their charity had its limits. Grzeika laughed out loud when Superintendent Jones said the School Board is requesting almost $16 million in local funds for the 2012–2013 budget. That’s almost $4 million more than the county’s current allocation.
Grzeika said “there’s no way” he could see that much of an increase going toward schools. He encouraged School Board members to keep scrubbing.
Supervisor John LoBuglio pointed out that that kind of increase would amount to an 11-cent increase to tax rates.
“Just consider that, that we’re going to be the one to answer to the taxpayers,” LoBuglio said. “Even if they are parents, they are going to scream.”