Supervisors vs. schools

Dr. Kevin Harris: Floyd County School Superintendent
Dr. Kevin Harris: Floyd County School Superintendent

Floyd County heads into a potentially tense and defining week as a seemingly-unavoidable annual confrontation between the School Board and Supervisors escalates over a budget that has brought talk of teacher layoffs and school closings from the superintendent.

School boss Dr. Kevin Harris laid out a gloomy future in a recent email to school teachers and other employees — one that he says is inevitable if the system does not get the bulk of a fiscal 2014 budget request that adds $2.2 million to a county budget that supervisors say is already stretched to the limit.

At the moment, the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is far from final.  In work sessions, supervisors look right now at a funding level for the schools that is about the same as the current year and talk at the last work session about moving $105,000 — including $85,000 for a football field irrigation system — out of the current budget triggered a strong response from Harris.

Level funding, Harris says, really means a $1 million reduction in the school budget because carryovers last year amounted to almost that amount and those funds are no longer available and increases in insurance costs push the shortfall even higher.

“Cuts that total over one million dollars will have a devastating effect on our school system,” Harris said in his email to school employees.

Among those “effects,” Harris said, is:

  • “Reduction of salaries by reducing contract days.”
  • “Elimination of non-SOQ positions.”
  • “Elimination of other teach positions.”
  • “Closing schools.”
  • “Reducing or eliminating extracurricular activities.”

In other words, firing teachers, closing Indian Valley elementary school and elimination of sports programs like football, basketball and curtailment of other activities.

The threat of closing Indian Valley is a strategic move designed to force support of a tax increase out of a board that is normally reluctant to impose extra levees a county where many family are strapped for cash.

Indian Valley Supervisor Fred Gerald is both a strong proponent for keeping the elementary school open but also prides himself in a record that has never cast a “yes” vote on a tax increase.

Supervisors have to make a decision on whether or not to increase taxes no later than April 18 so County Treasurer Missy Keith can prepare tax bills.  If the board decided not to raise taxes, that decision is binding and cannot be changed for the upcoming fiscal year.

Speakers at a “media event” school board meeting at the county high school last week supported a tax increase to give the schools the money they want but those who oppose additional taxes are expected to appear at upcoming public comment sections of supervisor meetings.  Recent speakers at Supervisors meetings have questioned the salary of teachers, which they say is already higher than the county’s income average and one speaker noted that many school teachers and administrators live outside the county, saying they take money from the county and spend it elsewhere.

Supporters of the school system dismiss both arguments, noting that Floyd County’s teacher salaries rank among the lowest in Virginia and say that is doesn’t matter where a teacher or administrator lives as long as they teach and have a positive effect on county students.

The battle heads into the next round Tuesday at the first April meeting of the Board of Supervisors.  The meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. and the public comment period is at 9 a.m.

The debate over the school budget threatens to overshadow proposed cuts in other county departments, including the possible elimination of the Sheriff’s Department employee retention fund and a need for additional cruisers.

Some say what is becoming an annual — and very public — debate over the school system budget is a culture clash in Floyd County.

Others call it a battle of egos.

Most, however, agree that — in the end — the losers of such battles are usually the children who attend the county’s public schools.

Supervisors Lauren Yoder (left), Joe Turman and Board Chairman Case Clinger.
Supervisors Lauren Yoder (Locust Grover), Joe Turman (Burks Fork) and Board Chairman Case Clinger (Courthouse)

5 Responses to Supervisors vs. schools

  1. We went to a track meet at Auburn…now those folks have shown their kids how much they are valued. Try using the FES bathrooms sometime. Think about the message the state of those bathrooms sends our kids, loud and clear.

  2. I had some time at lunch today and did some quick looking around on the internet at a couple neighboring counties school budget numbers.

    Montgomery Co. says it spends $9564.30 per child (Montgomerycountyva.gov), that roughly means $95,000,000 for 9600 kids in 20 schools.

    Carroll county says it’s school budget is $39,656,597 (carrollcountyva.org) and they have approx. 5622 kids (education.com)or $7054 per child in 9 schools.

    Patrick 2450 kids, $28,636,696 or $11688 per kid in 7 schools (topschooljobs.org/jobs/5106-74364/Superintendent-Patrick-County-Public-Schools-Virginia–Stuart-VA-USA) .

    Floyd’s budget for 2013-2014 was $21,000,000 (floyd.k12.va.us) and we have approx. 2000 kids in 5 schools (Floyd Press) for a total of $10,500 per child.

    Floyd, Patrick and Carroll’s budget numbers were from 2013-2014 year, Thought this was interesting,

  3. Walk in FES lobby and check out the fish tank…no money is being spent on the fish, OR the bathrooms…I believe Floyd is near to last in teacher pay. So where is that money going?

  4. Doug-did you attend? I heard that the presentations were powerful, and all on the side of funding the school budget in its entirety-any insights?

    • Diane, I was there covering the meeting for The Floyd Press and my story here on their web site and will be featured in Thursday’s paper. I will also prepared a video in the next day or two.

      As the story notes, no tax increase is forthcoming and the supervisors gave $173,000 more to the school system, small increase but well below the $2.2 million increase that was requested.