Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s recent support for updating the Local Composite Index (LCI), the formula which determines state and local education funding responsibility, has Clarke County School Board members and administration optimistic that state funds will be available in time to avoid severe cutbacks in the 2011 budget. While the Governor’s recommendation offers hope that Clarke teachers will not lose their jobs as initially feared, Virginia’s General Assembly must still fund the change through a series of potentially difficult budget cuts.
“I am elated for the students, staff, and Clarke County community that the Governor has announced his support for updating the local composite index” said School Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy. “This decision could potentially eliminate our anticipated $1,000,000 budget shortfall. The restoration of $1,069,840 in state funds would provide added stability to our Division and help ensure the amazing and ongoing efforts and achievements of our dedicated staff and students.”
According to Murphy restoration of the local composite index will could excaerbate budget challenge for other agencies, school divisions and communities in the Commonwealth because the funding formula is designed to balance resources across the state.
In announcing his decision to undo the proposed Index freeze, McDonnell also identified specific budget savings to account for the additional state spending required. The update will cost the state $29 million in FY 2011. To cover this increased funding, McDonnell will recommend to the General Assembly the transfer of $13 million from Literary Fund balances; $8 million through the use of available balances in the Health Insurance Fund to reduce state health insurance premiums; $5.2 million will be found in Real ID savings and an available $3 million will be captured in additional Non-General Fund balances.
School Board member Jennifer Welliver (Berryville) hailed the decision as an example of how public opinion can cause positive political change. “Restoring the LCI funding shows that Richmond is listening to what the people are saying. We’ve got one of the best school systems in the country here but we’re going to have to continue to fight for it especially in this weak economy.”
Janet Alger, School Board representative from the Russell voting district, saw the development as “really positive.” Alger described her reaction as “cautiously optimistic” because the General Assembly must approve the recommendations before any funding can be restored. Alger also has concerns that funding challenges in other parts of the Clarke County budget may influence school contributions by the Board of Supervisor if the state money is ultimately restored to the school budget.
Governor McDonnell’s office says that budget recommendations will continue to be made and communicated to the legislature in the coming days.