School Board Wrestles With Deficit at Work Session

As the process of finalizing the Clarke County Public Schools Budget for FY12 churns forward, choices must be made and jobs hang in the balance. Thursday evening, Superintendent Mike Murphy made his third presentation on the FY12 budget to a working session of the Clarke County School Board and painted a picture of fiscal challenges.   Currently, the FY12 budget has a $397K deficit due in large part to decreased Virginia Department of Education funding associated with 10% decline in CCPS student population over the last five years. Unfunded educational mandates stemming from the Virginia General Assembly have put pressure on the FY12 budget as well. However, the deficit has been mitigated by $493,718 in carried over funds from previous years. This allocation was approved by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors for use on capital expenditures.

“We have options for using the carry over,” said Superintendent Mike Murphy. The options will be affected significantly by what transpires in the coming weeks during the Virginia Legislative session. The current CCPS budget is based on the state budget that Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell submitted. The Virginia House and Senate are debating changes to that budget and both versions, so far, appear to be adding funds back into the mix. The House version would reduce the school budget deficit to approximately $151K and the Senate version would reduce the deficit to only $67K. Final negotiations will in all likelihood put the final number somewhere between the two. The final budget decision from the state will determine the final deficit. That shortfall will then come out of the carry over funds. This means the School Board will not need to go back to the Clarke County Board of Supervisors for any additional funds. It will however impact the amount left in the carryover for capital investments.

Superintendent Murphy identified areas for capital investment in the budget saying, “We want to buy two school buses instead of one. We want to buy 197K more of technology. In capital, those are the big items.”

Those line items would be impacted by the deficit eating into the carryover funds and will be in the balance as the state legislature determines their final budget.

As the picture of the bottom line begins to clarify, the issue of internal numbers, in particular programmatic decisions (i.e. teaching positions) moved to the forefront of the discussion. Because of the close connection of small programs to individual teachers the Board elected to have that discussion in a closed session.

Superintendent Murphy said, “We’re proposing some staff changes. Those staff changes represent 8.16 FTE (Full Time Employee) positions. It could be 10 people, it could be 12 people, it could be 15 people. It’s bits and pieces of people that would add up to 8.16 FTE.” Murphy added, “We have not identified people or positions that will be cut at this time.”


  1. So, at some point the words “unfunded mandates” needs explanation. Either by the School Board or CDN who keeps repoting it. It’s beyond my comprehension. Are SOL’s and SOQ’s unfunded mandates? Please remember, our CCPS graduating class this year are the first recipients of the mandated SOL’s. FLE? First indroduced by the BOE in 1987! On-line SOL testing? Introduced to be implemented in 2000. What exactaly are”unfunded mandates”?

    Seems to me they are simply GOALS to help school divisions continue on the path VDOE and the BOE have intendend to make the Commonweath a top notch provider in education. Would anyone-someone-please explain these new unfunded mandates to me?

    Or is this simply an excuse at catch up to the 5 P’s?

    CDN Editor: In United States law and politics, unfunded mandates are regulations, or in some cases conditions for receiving grants that impose costs on state or local governments or private entities for which they are not reimbursed by the federal government.

    • Specifically then, what are the unfunded mandates facing CCPS in 2011-2012 in reference to education?

      • Just sayin says:

        This link explains how the Standards of Quality (SOQs) are funded. Basically, the SOQs specify the minumum staffing ratios (teachers-to-students, nurses-to-students, etc.), and provide a formula that doles out a % of state aid for those categories. Anything over SOQ minimums is funded through local money, or state/federal grants, or some combination thereof. Additionally, SOQ money is divided into several categories for things like textbooks, etc.

        The specific SOQs can be found here:

        Add on the increased special education requirements, touched on in a previous article; the new opinion of Attorney General Cuccinelli that fees for AP/IB/pick-your-advanced-course testing cannot be passed on to parents; increased pressures and requirements of Richmond and DC under the SOLs (Richmond) and No Child Left Behind (DC); etc., and one sees the unfunded mandates placed on our schools.

        All of this means an increased cost pressure on the schools. Throw in the fact that Richmond looks at Clarke’s local ability to pay (based on per capita income levels and property value), and decreasing enrollment #s, and state aid gets cut.

        But, just because the state & federal money is cut doesn’t mean that the mandates have been cut. The Virginia constitution stipulates that the state and the localities must provide a “free and appropriate public education” for its children. So, if state money is cut and federal money is cut, the locality has to provide more money to keep the same level of quality education. The powers that be here need to either put more money into the schools or watch the level of quality drop, because asking them to continue to “do more with less” really means that less will get done, and its quality will also be less. However, the Supervisors have said there’ll be no more money available for operations. So, something’s gonna have to give….