vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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Some Budget Amendment Clarification

I have to admit that my Wednesday article about the Stafford County 2012 budget public hearing had some flaws. I mentioned that the six county employees and the fuel reserve would be funded with the School Board’s health services money. Not true. The six county employees and the fuel reserve would be funded mostly by lower than anticipated debt service costs.

But that probably doesn’t help much, either. So here is a memo from County Administrator Anthony Romanello explaining the budget amendment plan. Look for a more detailed article this weekend.

Board of Supervisors Finance, Audit, and Budget Committee

April 14, 2011

At a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors Finance, Audit and Budget Committee on Tuesday, April 12, committee members Cord Sterling, Susan Stimpson and Harry Crisp developed an amendment to the proposed FY12 Budget. The Board of Supervisors will consider the amendment at its meeting on Tuesday, April 19.

Coupling excess Schools reserves with the amendment’s increased FY 12 allocation to the Schools, the School Board can accomplish the following priorities for our community:

ú         2% pay raise for School employees

ú         Reduce health insurance costs for School employees

ú         Restore 56 instructional positions slated for elimination

ú         Fund OPEB consistent with sound financial practices

ú         Fund Falmouth and Stafford Elementary School renovations

ú         Invest in classroom technology and buses

Employee Compensation

To help make School employees’ compensation more competitive; the proposal would give all school employees a 2% pay raise on July 1, 2011.  This is realized reducing funds originally targeted in excess of requirements for health insurance/OPEB transfer.

Health Care Holiday

All school employees would receive a partial health care holiday for all Schools’ personnel consistent with the reduction in the budget of School Board’s share of health insurance costs.

Instructional Positions

The Board of Supervisors does not want to reduce instructional positions in schools, nor do supervisors want the “Central Support adjustments” identified in the School Board’s Approved Budget to affect classroom instruction. The proposal would restore the 56.5 classroom positions targeted for elimination in the School Board’s Approved Budget by reallocating funds in excess of need originally targeted in the School Board’s FY2012 Approved Budget Operating Fund for health insurance/OPEB transfer.

Funding OPEB Trust Fund

The Board of Supervisors acknowledges that funding for OPEB is not a requirement, but understands the value of making a reasonable contribution to an OPEB trust, consistent with good financial practice and the advice of the County’s financial advisors. The proposal would fully fund the School Board’s share of projected health care claims with transfers from Schools’ operating lines to Health Services Fund plus prior year fund balance in the Health Services Fund. The amendment would also fund, from the Health Services Fund balance, up to a $5.5 million contribution to the OPEB Trust Fund to reduce the liability for future retiree health care benefits, which will not change the benefits currently being offered.  Making this contribution will exceed the OPEB balances of our comparison localities, some of which enjoy AAA bond ratings.

Elementary School Renovations

The Board of Supervisors acknowledges the shortfall in the funding for the renovation of Falmouth and Stafford elementary schools and supports the completion of these projects. The proposal would cover the shortfall in funding for the Falmouth and Stafford elementary schools with a reduction to transfers of excess funds from Schools’ operating lines to the Health Services Fund plus proceeds from the sale of property located adjacent to Anne E. Moncure elementary school.

The School Board owns this property, which would be suitable for use as a commuter parking lot by VDOT. The School Board has expressed a need of the proceeds of the sale of the property for funding of one-time capital expenditures. Funds are available in the Transportation fund that could be used to purchase this land which may be subsequently sold to VDOT for use as a commuter parking lot.

Classroom Technology Enhancements and Transportation

At midyear, Dr. Bridges estimated that $2.8 million would be available at the end of FY2011 that could be re-appropriated in FY2012 for one-time uses. The proposal would increase the budget for new classroom technology and buses, or other priority one-time expenditures by $2.8 million using carry forward savings from FY2011 Schools’ budget (to be appropriated after year-end verification).

In the April 13th Free Lance-Star article on the public hearing, it was erroneously reported that the Schools health care fund could fund six full-time positions in County government originally slated for elimination.  These positions will be funded by general government funds and no School funds will be used to fund these positions.  In addition, the Committee is recommending the establishment of a fuel price reserve fund for Schools and County.  The article was incorrect in reporting that the fuel reserve would come from School funds.  This reserve will be funded with County money only, and would be available for the Schools and County to help address fluctuations in gas prices.  Our staff spoke with the Free Lance-Star on April 13th to clarify this information.

The Board of Supervisors will consider this proposal at our meeting next week on Tuesday, April 19, 2011.

As this matter is of great interest in our community, we are providing a copy of this letter to local media outlets.


  • LarryG

    This SOUNDS like the county and the school system are discussing actual categories of funding…..

    is that true?

    seems like in the past the SB would have none of that.

    is this a change?

  • anthonywing

    In fact, under new health care reform your health insurance company will no longer be allowed to cancel your policy if you get sick, we should be doing this already! search online “Penny Health Insurance” it is a good place to find insurance if you have illness like me.

  • Its a numbers game

    If the BOS robs the healh care benefits fund this year where will that money come from next year? A $5.6M jobs stimulus expires next year, the equivalent of 230 classroom positions. The BOS knew for 2 years that $14.3M in Federal stimulus, used by Richmond to supplant losses in their contributions, would dry up and did nothing about it.

  • how I see it

    If what I have read over the past few days is correct, the county has not been making its contribution to OPED and has an unfunded liability of over $17K. This is despite a Dec 15th, 2009 resolution by the BOS to begin funding at least 50% of its required contribution.

    I know that appropriating money to this fund is not very glamorous or as newsworthy as cutting taxes. It certainly is not as politically noteworthy of an accomplishment as cutting taxes (cut taxes = happy voters = get voted into office).

    In my opinion, this is another example of why the BOS should not have advertised a 2 cent property tax reduction for 2012 and a 6(?) cents reduction last year. Among so many other needs (parks, employee raises, schools, police, fire and rescue), this is another need that could be funded by the $2.4 K tax cut the BOS is currently considering. It may not be very glamorous, but I would rather the Board keeps the estimated $48 a year I will save in property tax and properly fund its OPED obligation and so many other needs.

    It sounds like the SCPS is trying to be prudent and plan ahead by attempting to make contributions to the OPED fund. But, now the BOS wants the school system to raid its health and OPED fund to pay for reoccurring costs for the salary increases and reinstatement of positions it has proposed in a recent amendment to its budget. This does not make sense to me. We supposedly have a very fiscally conservative and financial tuned BOS. Raiding a fund this intended to pay future obligations and that could also provide income, as the contributions are invested, does not seem like a fiscally conservative minded person (or politician) would do.

    Unfortunately, even at the local level – it’s all about politics: be a hero, save the day, find a way to give the poor teacher a raise = look at what I accomplished = vote for me.

    That’s how I see it.

  • http://Wherediditcomefrom? Dana

    No one at Central Office has been able to explain where the $10 million for OPEB came from. It just magically appeared in the account. We did not take extra from employee contributions, there wasn’t a $7.5 million decline in the amount of health benefits pay outs. We only “scraped” together a fraction of that last year, now we suddenly have a whopping $10 million and no one can explain it yet.

    Seems as if the extra $10 million had to come from money meant for the kids? When school staff can adequately explain where the $10 million came from – it can be considered. More shell games with the money – again.