The Clarke County School Board spent Tuesday night looking for additional budget cuts after last week’s preliminary “level funded budget” turned out to be $409K higher than previously thought. But by the end of the evening the School Board could only agree on an additional $67K of reductions from the proposed $20.6M school operating fund.
Last night’s last minute scramble to look for additional areas of excess in a budget that had been previously scrubbed on February 21 at a special School Board budget work session resulted from an oversight during last Tuesday night’s budget calculations. School Board members had left the February 21 meeting believing that the series of cuts and budget repurposing moves that they had approved had resulted in a “level funded budget” after discounting Virginia state mandated budget increases that the School Board had no control over.
However, at last night’s meeting Joint Administrative Services director Tom Judge said that after he had taken a closer look at the School Board’s February 21 budget approach, the budget was still $409K above the amount needed to achieve a level funded expenditure budget.
The news of the budget busting oversight lead to a series of motions and moves meant to explore whether any consensus existed on other areas could still be cut.
For the most part the answer was a resounding “No.”
School Board chairman Janet Alger (Russell) said that she was unwilling to consider reducing five days from the school instruction year. School Board member Barbara Lee (Millwood) said that although the PAVAN performing arts program was expensive, she believed that the program should be spared further cuts. School Board member Chip Schutte (White Post) said that he had reached the point where his conscious prevented him from cutting the budget any further.
One area that the School Board did manage to squeeze some money from was a fund used to provide staffing flexibility as instructional needs change during the school year. The School Board decided last night that the staffing contingency fund was not a luxury that it could afford given the looming budget shortfall.
“We can’t afford this luxury this year” said Dr. Beth Leffel (Buckmarsh). “We may have to go back to the Supervisors and ask for more money if it turns out we need it.”
However, School Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy put a human face on the staffing contingency cut:
“If a special needs child moves into the school district we will be providing services as required by Federal law,” Murphy said. “We will not be able to wait for budget direction from the School Board if that were to occur.”
After further discussion the School Board agreed to eliminate $67K of a $127K staffing contingency fund. But by the end of the night no further cuts were in sight and the Clarke County School Board unanimously approved $20,574,559 in proposed school operating funds for Fiscal Year 2013, nearly $637K above the level funding budget target.
“We have great staff, great kids and great programs and we need to say that to the Board of Supervisors,” said Alger. “This is a ’needs-based’ budget so all we can do now is present it and go from there.”
The CCPS school budget will be presented to the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on March 07 at 7:00pm at the Joint Government Center in Berryville, Virginia.
View the Clarke County School Board budget documents here: