School Board Asks for $636K Over Level Funding Target

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.

The proposed budget, which includes a two percent pay increase for school employees, will now go before the Clarke County Board of Supervisors for consideration on March 7.

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:

CCPS FY13 Budget – Executive Summary

CCPS FY13 Budget – Brinkmeier Plan


  1. “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.”

    This is a voice of reason and just what was needed in the SB as a representitive. A true bipartisan representive for Buckmarsh.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Really, I believe it was a lack of understanding of the budgeting process is more appropriate. Going back to the supervisors to ask for more money to cover hiring a teacher, teacher aid, specialist or replacement teacher that comes in at a higher salary than the previous teacher is a joke. Are we really to a point where we want the supervisors weighing in on every hire or school need? I think not. The reason you put a budget together is so you don’t have to go back and ask for anything. The BOS is going to take your budget and apply it to the county budget. Going back to them for every little thing will only show that you didn’t put together an appropriate budget to start with.

      Last night’s meeting was painful to watch. It became very obvious that two members only had one thing on their agenda, cut one more dollar to appease the BOS. To me, “Dereliction of Duty” comes to mind but that may be harsh. At a minimum they seem less interested in the quality of education in Clarke Co. and more interested in the cost.

      Hearing questions from Brinkmeier on cutting the afterschool programs at the middle school were sickening. His cuts were based on a misunderstanding about the program. The lack of participation is a result of lack of transportation, not because the program is not needed. If anything they need to add money to the program to make it successful. Dr. Leffel wanted $13k out of the arts program, PAVAN. There is the problem; they’re not focusing on making the school district successful; their focus is making it cheap. The agreement of cutting the staffing contingency fund was a mistake. Even if the funds are not needed for staffing it doesn’t mean they are not needed somewhere else. I bet the BOS will have contingency funds set aside (rainy day fund).

      • Did you know that for the number of kids in PAVAN, it costs over $1500 A KID? WOW. I bet every band/chorus student would like $1500 spent on them, or every football player, or every middle school wrestler.

        CDN editor: At the Monday evening School Board meeting member Barbara Lee (Millwood) pointed out that PAVAN, unlike some other programs, charges a flat fee for school district participation regardless of the number of students that attend from the school district. Therefore, in larger districts like – Loudoun or Frederick – the cost of the program is distributed across a larger number of students while the Clarke contingent was approximately ten students. Lee suggested that although PAVAN was an excellent program, perhaps PAVAN’s administrators should reconsider its funding structure.

        • mother of daughter in va says:

          Why aren’t parents of participating children asked to contribute to the costs?

  2. I firmly believe education is important, so please do not think I do not value its importance.

    I am however so sick and tired of this budgeting mess that folks cannot seem to figure out.

    If there is only so much money, then that is all there is. I am not able to overspend on my personal budget, why is government any different. Our mentality here in the States is quite warped. At some point we have to cut out something to come in line with a workable budget. Workable, meaning money available at the end for unexpected things that arise.

    Continuing to go forward and seek more money seems irresponsible.

    Using a rainy day fund for day to day operations is reckless.

    I would love to have it all, but alas, I cannot afford it. Neither can Clarke.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Would you take on a second job to feed your kids or would you just tell them “that’s all there is”.
      I am also tired, tired of the attitude that we are some poor, broke down poverty stricken county that has no money. There is a difference between not being able to afford and having the means but choosing not to afford.
      The facts are the facts and you can’t change them. The median household income in Clarke is $73,244 while the state average is $61,406 and the per capita income is $34,630 Clarke while the state is $32,145. Clarke persons below poverty level is 3% lower than the state average of 10.3% The median value of our homes is $366.9K compared to the state average of $255.1K
      So far this doesn’t sound poor to me.
      Clarke tax rate among 95 counties is tied at 40th from the bottom; bottom being the lowest rate. And the average spend per child is bottom 15% for education.

      Over the past ten years I’ve seen a new animal shelter, county building, high school, senior center and now possibly a park down by the river. So I’m not sold on not having the money; it’s only a money issue when it’s related to the schools. An over welling number of people I’ve talked to in this county wouldn’t mind spending a little more on our schools providing the money is spent wisely.

      I do agree with you on using the “rainy day fund” for operational budget. That was my point having contingencies built into your budget.

      One last thing: “Continuing to go forward and seek more money seems irresponsible.” If you don’t put the needs in the budget how are people to know that you need them? Not communicating the needs is irresponsible.

  3. Dreamer, it’s about putting up the funding to provide the best education proigram possible for our kids. It’s about 5 supervisors (4 in particular) who need to realize that the investments in the schools, the students, and their staff are critical and necessary. For one supervisor to state that, if the schools seek a 2% raise, that means they’ll have to give the county employees one, too…well, that says more about his views about his own staff than anything else. Whay, pray tell, would you eliminate? Athletics? The arts? You don’t seem to grasp that this division has already cut $1.2M from its budget over the past few years by eliminating some teaching and instructional aide positions (some dozen or so over the past 2 years), and so on.

    The “budget busting oversight” that caused the problems…were they Brinkmeier’s numbers that were flawed? The ones he got last week from two unnamed supervisors?

    Thank you, Mrs. Alger, Mrs. Lee, and Mr. Schutte…you get it. And…now that the budget has been voted on…supervisors, it’s time for you to step up. Fund this request, please.

  4. Toni Ferret says:

    Sniping at the school board members seems a dereliction of duty to me. As an involved citizen in the county why doesn’t Mr. Parrot run for the school board or the BOS instead of grandstanding from the bleachers? The 2 new SB members seem to be trying to actually do their jobs– advocating for the students in a reality based theme as opposed to the pie in the sky Murphy cheerleaders that have been on the SB before.

    • Right Winger says:

      Tony has run for SB. And Murphy is a good guy. It’s the BOS that is the problem.