A tough budget year gets tougher

051214schoolbudgetsFloyd County is not alone in facing cutbacks in its public schools.

Franklin County Monday reduced its request for a $4.3 million increase from the county to $3.5 million after supervisors rejected much of a list of 18 priorities.

Unlike Floyd County, Franklin supervisors are raising real estate taxes but only by half the amount the school system wanted for its budget increases.

“We should judge it by our success,” Franklin County school board member Cline Brubaker told The Roanoke Times.  “And we were not that successful.”

Bedford County’s school systems is looking at teacher layoffs and an increase in class sizes over because of a $1 million reduction in funding.  The cuts come as the county considers site for a new middle school.

Botetourt’s school board canceled a meeting earlier this year because of uncertainty over funding because the state is wrapped up in gridlock over new Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s push to expand Medicaid.

Roanoke County passed a school budget that closes no school, lays off no teachers but also grants no raises.

Around the Commonwealth, most school systems face financial problems in a stagnant economy, uncertainty over state funding and a unwillingness of local governments to raise taxes.

Floyd County Supervisors decided on a level-funding budget for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1 but did give the school board about $300,000 more than it received in the current year to fund a $20 million plus budget.

But school officials say they face a reduction of nearly a million dollars because this year’s budget included carryover funds of $900,000 from the previous year.  A carryover that large does not exist this time around, they add.

Supervisors also decided to hold the line on real estate and personal property taxes in the coming year.  With three members of the board coming up for re-election next year, they remember that the last three supervisors to lose re-election bids went down in defeat after voting for tax increases.

Education problems are not limited to public schools in Floyd County.  Blue Mountain School is shutting down its new high school at the end of the academic year.  A new private school, if one emerges, may be separate from Blue Mountain but that future remains uncertain.

The debate over Floyd County’s school system has strong proponents and opponents.

Proponents point out that the county’s school system is one of the few in Virginia where all of its elementary schools and the high school have won accreditation.  They point with pride at the academic and athletic records of Floyd County students.

Opponents criticize a school budget that takes up two-thirds of the county’s $30 million annual spending.  They say too many administrators and teachers live outside the county and they claim fat exists in the budget.

The proposed county budget comes before the public on May 27 at 7 p.m. for a public hearing.  In reality, most of the budget questions are moot by this time.  The tax rate is set and bills from County Treasurer Missy Keith are out.  Allocations to various county departments, while not set in stone, are pretty much decided.

Citizens can also comment at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Supervisors, which begins at 8:30 a.m. at the county administration building on Oxford Street in Floyd.

The public comment period begins at 9 a.m.

 

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