School Board to ask for $1.88 million more than the baseline budget, 33 positions cut

As Fluvanna Superintendent Gena Keller presented her budget to the School Board on Wednesday’s (March 13) meeting, it quickly became apparent that she was not going to stay within the limitations the Board of Supervisors had outlined.

 

In November, the Board of Supervisors granted Fluvanna schools a supplemental $308,000 in order to balance the budget mid-year and avoid further furloughing teachers.  However, the deal came with strings attached.  The first string being that the School Board would close Cunningham and Columbia Elementary Schools and the second string bring that fiscal year 2014 would stay within a budget of $12.2 million in local funding.  String number one has already been fulfilled.  But string number two is going to be a hard-fought bargain.

“We appreciate the operations funds appropriated to us, but we cannot sustain a budget at this level,” said School Board Chair Camilla Washington in a letter to the Board of Supervisors.  The school board voted unanimously to request an additional $1.88 million in local funding., bringing the total requested funding to $14.09 million.

Keller also announced that 33 positions will be cut in the school district, 15 of which will be a reduction in force (RIF).  Since 2009, 87 positions have been eliminated from the Fluvanna County School System.

“Some people could say that 87 positions means there must have been too many positions, but in the last few years we’ve really been in survival mode,” said Keller.  “There is no way – and I think it’s important that the community understands this – that we will be operating in the same way, because we can’t.”

The additional $1.88 million in the School Board’s proposed budget will eliminate staff furlough days, continue paying the employee share of Virginia Retirement System (VRS) life insurance, provide all staff a two percent raise, restore building maintenance and instructional supply funds, brace for the increase in health insurance costs and update technology.

The technology upgrades will be important if Fluvanna is going to attempt to become a STEM-H (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Health) education hub, and fulfill the needs of local employers.

“When we’re talking about STEM, it’s not just a class at the high school,” said Keller.  “We’re talking about a rich, deep, rigorous thread that goes all of the way through our program.  If you start earlier, children believe they can do it.”

“In order for our school to move forward with our STEM-H we must provide our primary and middle school children with the basic technology that is necessary to succeed,” said Washington.

After last year’s drawn out budget battles with the Board of Supervisors, this year the School Board seems prepared for both action and compromise.  They motivated constituents to attend budget meetings, while simultaneously prepared a plan B.

“I think that it’s important that the community reaches out and speaks up about the needs that they have for their particular schools,” said Washington.

Meanwhile, Keller and Director of Finance Ed Breslauer have promised to create a plan for four possible scenarios of funding, “so that we have a plan if we’re not given the amount requested,” said Keller.

The Board of Supervisors will vote to adopt their budget on April 17.  A public hearing on the budget will be held on April 10 at 7 p.m. in the Fluvanna County Circuit Court.