School Budget – Many Options, None Good

CCSchools - FeltnerStadium SignThe Clarke County Public School budget challenge for 2011 is so severe that no school program is beyond consideration. School administration officials are seeking to offset approximately $1 million in lost funding from Virginia’s education fund. Virginia’s statewide K-12 programs could lose $1.2 billion resulting in a state-wide reduction in force of teachers, elimination of school sponsored sports and other direct impacts on student educational programs.

“The budget cuts that we are anticipating will come at a cost to students,” said Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy. “A $1 million reduction in an $18 million budget, where 85% of costs are attributed to direct personnel, will almost certainly mean a reduction in force (RIF) of the teaching staff.” While Murphy believes that teacher layoffs are the worst possible option, previous budget reductions have stretched the school system to perilous levels. CCPS have suffered $2.8 million in budget cuts over the past three years.

“Citizens need to realize that CCPS are facing cuts from the state education budget,” said school board member Jennifer Welliver (Berryville). “People should protest this in Richmond, not with us. Here at the local level we’re struggling to do something with nothing.” Janet Alger (Russell) concurred, “We have to make hard decisions about a budget where there are no good choices.”

Dr. Murphy itemized a number of budget cuts that will be considered before firing teachers, but all of the School Board’s alternatives will directly impact students. “We’re looking for $100K from across our five buildings in supplies and operating costs, $50K in direct program cuts, $345K from not replacing retirees and resignations and an additional $68K savings from withdrawal from Mountain Vista Governor’s School,” Murphy said. School administration will also seek to have approximately $500K of 2009 carry-over funds applied to the FY2011 budget.

Even remedial English and remedial math courses may be dropped as teachers may be required to teach two – three subject areas.

This year’s budget uncertainties have been compounded by several factors. First, incoming Governor Bob McDonnell has delayed release of an updated education budget forcing school officials to work from the previous Kaine administration budget. The Kaine budget will almost certainly be revised but no timetable has been established. Second, the Kaine budget proposes deferral of Virginia’s Local Composite Index (LCI) allocation. Deferral of the LCI would cost CCPS and additional $1 million in state funding for each year of the freeze.

Jennifer Welliver said that she didn’t see how the School Board would be able to cut remedial programs and still justify funding for sports programs. Emily Rhodes (Buckmarsh) agreed, “We have to protect our Pre-K-12 core academics at all costs. We will have to consider pay-to-particpate for programs like drama and sports.” Dr. Murphy added that transportation for sports programs carries an annual price tag of $60K while band transportation adds an additional $20K.

Murphy characterized the budget process as a series of decisions about what Clarke County values for its children. “We are facing questions of values and choices, how we get the state to support budget recommendations that will do the least amount of harm to the CCPS system,” Murphy said.

Barbara Lee (Millwood) added that the School Board may call on the community to raise funding for special programs like IB classes.

The School Board has scheduled a public hearing for February 16th to consider the school budget. The public hearing will be held in the high school library in order to accommodate the anticipated large turnout.


  1. [Redacted text] you might want to ask the CCPS staff responsible for the budget to look at the years beyond FY 2011. In addition to losing state funding, the stimulus money goes away – which CCPS is using for operations. The “hole” becomes a crater.

    In addition, I encourage this fine news site to do a little more digging into allowed funding sources for public schools. While the SB would love to pass the buck to the state and federal government, state law allows school boards to a) find other revenue sources and b) accept money from just about anybody to be used as the SB sees fit. Now, this the the SB’s 3rd budget, and they’ve just realized that state and federal money are going away and they have funding issues? You let the SB off the hook too easily. I think it’s high time fo rthe SB to show they’ve gone after every last available dollar everywhere else first – it’s called due diligence.

    • Jim Gibson says:

      [Redacted text] state law does not allow school boards (elected, as in Clarke, or appointed, as in Winchester) to “find other revenue sources” through, say, a seperate tax levy. Revenue may come from sponsors for athletic teams or other programs; rental usage of school facilities by outside groups; income from vending machines; federal, state, and local grants, as applicable; donations from the Berryville Bluegrass Concert Series (to benefit the Eagles Athletics Assoc.); etc.

      However, such revenue amounts are very small, in the grand scheme of things, and your post ignores the reality that each of these “revenue sources” are already in place and providing funds. Food Service covers nearly all of its own costs through the sale of school lunches.

      Again, you don’t really offer productive ideas to help. You choose instead to cast negative innuendo on those who craft and manage a tight CCPS budget.

  2. One more thing: all CCPS students are entitled to a free and appropriate education. Paying “user fees” for IB classes and/or sports and other activities may violate the spirit if not the letter of the law (i.e. school is not FREE). Remember, education is supposed to be a PUBLIC good (educated citizens, stable property values, innovation, and even bluegrass appreciation).

    • Jim Gibson says:

      Indeed, all CCPS students are entitled to a free and appropriate education. That means that the governing bodies responsible for providing that education (Clarke County and the Commonwealth of Virginia, with assistance from the United States government via mandates) need to provide the funding necessary to provide said education.

      Athletics and other extra-curricular activities are not part of the “free and appropriate public education,” so asking participants to help defray some of the costs IS legal and necessary. Many studies prove that providing such extra-curricular activities help children become more well-rounded individuals, and thus more productive members of society.

      A quality education requires quality funding. Period. The needs of the schools don’t go away simply because revenue decreases. Cutbacks eventually reach a point where the quality is compromised and achievement declines. Education is an investment not only in our children but also in our community itself.