Floyd County’s School Board: ‘We answer to no one’

The Floyd County school system, which by law is a division of the county government, apparently thinks it doesn’t have to answer to anyone, including the Board of Supervisors.

That’s what two Supervisors found out recently when they asked the school board for information on the budget in general along with specifics abut the contracts and salary history of school superintendent Terry Arbgogast.

The school board told supervisors Casey Clinger and Virgel Allen that if they wanted the information they would have to file a request under the Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act.

Usually when someone’s boss (which the board of supervisors is when it comes to the school board) asks for information, the prudent thing to do is turn over the information.

But the school board apparently believes it doesn’t have to answer to anyone, even the elected officials to run the county government.

So Clinger and Allen filed the request but they felt the information they received was not complete or all that they asked for.

Contract information for the school superintendent for some years were missing and those missing contracts just happened to be years when Arbogast received raises.

At the supervisor’s regular monthly meeting last week, Arbogast told the board that he worked without a contract in those years because he trusted the board.

What Clinger and Allen want to know is exactly how much the board pays its top official.

The school budget for the last year lists the school superintendent’s salary at $98,872, which makes the school superintendent the highest paid county employee, collecting at least $20,000 a year over the county administrator’s salary.

But even that was not accurate because the school system will actually pay Arbogast $118,872 because the school board traditionally tacks on a $20,000 “bonus” in that last paycheck.  That, however, is not reflected in the budget submitted to the board.

That’s what Supervisors Clinger and Fred Gerald of Indian Valley found out last week when they sat down with the superintendent for a face-to-face budget discussion.  The two supervisors came away with more questions than answers.

As a public official, Arbogast’s salary is public record, but the school board makes it difficult to find out just how much the superintendent is actually paid.  His salary and benefit package comes from multiple accounts and are not easily identified in the school board’s budget.

Arbogast planned to retire this year but the school board enticed him to stay with a new contract with terms that have not yet been disclosed to the board of supervisors or the public.

The superintendent says he isn’t getting a raise but school board insiders say his new contract has some incentives and benefits that will — in fact — pay him more money. Just how much is still secret.

The school board hired Arbogast in 1993 for $64,500.  Since then his “confirmed” salary has grown by at least 84 percent.

We say “at least” because no one on the Floyd County Board of Supervisors knows how much the superintendent actually makes and they probably still won’t know when they have to approve a new budget with the school system taking up at least 80 percent. of the expenditures.

In the same period, as far as we can determine from the budgets submitted to Clinger and Allen, teacher salaries have gone up — percentage wise — by a little over 40 percent.

The school board still has not presented its proposed budget to the county and the board of supervisors has had two budget workshops without knowing what the entity that takes up at least 80 percent of the budget will cost.

The do know the school system faces an $800,000 plus “shortfall” because of declining funding from the state — due mainly to a loss of 90 students in the system countywide so far this year.

In past years, the school board has pretty much had its way with the county board because most of the supervisors are scared to be viewed as “anti-education” by voting to cut funding to the schools.

But the county, for all practical purposes, is broke. This year, the sheriff’s department wants four more deputies and two new patrol cars to deal with an escalating crime rate tied to drugs.  Other departments say they need more money too.

When the board makes its final decision on how much it has to spend and whether or not it has to raise taxes to pay the bill — which is more and more likely — it will do so without knowing what it really costs to run the entity that eats up 80 percent of the budget.

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5 thoughts on “Floyd County’s School Board: ‘We answer to no one’”

  1. Perhaps the county should withhold all funding unless and until the School Board decides 1) to submit their requested budget in a timely fashion as is required by other departments and 2) to provide ALL information regarding where the money goes. It is the very least that the taxpayers in Floyd County deserve but I doubt that the Board of Supervisors has the courage to stand up to the School Board, which is also a group of elected officials who can be “fired” at the ballot box.

  2. We certainly need to keep in mind the entire school system is affected by this argument that is currently going on. There isn’t just one person that works for the school system. There should be concern about the positions that may be lost due to lack of funding, the faciliities that won’t be as maintained, the larger classrooms, the lack of materials and resources when there is less money to purchase them, etc.
    We encourage board of supervisors to visit our schools on a frequent basis to see the wonderful things that are going on. We would appreciate the support of the entire community on a daily basis.
    I congratulate all faculty, staff, and students that have worked so hard to be successful with SOLs and other accreditation standards. We have one of the best school systems around and continue to strive for excellence on a daily basis.

    • The current “argument” does indeed affect the entire school system in that it calls into question resource allocation by the School Board. It appears that the folks at the top of the school administration are gaining at the expense of the folks who actually perform the intended function of the school system which is teaching the children. The school system belongs to the people of the county who are the ones who pay for it – it does not belong to the School Board. There needs to be accountability for the funding that is received by the School Board for the express purpose of educating the children. There is no accountability or transparency in the manner in which the current School Board operates. And because of that, the system itself suffers with teachers at the top of the list.

    • One problem…the loss of 90 students in the county system translates to roughly 4 teachers who may lose their jobs, but an $800,000 annual budget shortfall translates to about 12 teachers (saleies+benefits). Not a good outcome. Things are noticeably quiet in Floyd right now (quiet before the storm?).

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