When the Botetourt School Board started its annual budget-making process back in the winter, the school administration thought the board might lose as much as $2.5 million in state funding because of the budget shortfall the Commonwealth was expecting.
Make that number $4 million—that’s how much the School Board cut from its current budget in order to cover the cuts in state funding.
So, the School Board is sending a $44,777,009 budget to the Board of Supervisors this week with the expectation that the supervisors will provide “level funding” this year and schools won’t have to make any more cuts. That compares to this year’s $48,781,153 budget.
Superintendent Dr. Tony Brads said he’d met with the supervisors’ General Fund Budget Committee and felt reassured that the county would be able to provide the same $20,323,337 in local tax dollars that are in this year’s budget.
Supervisor Chairman Terry Austin, a member of the supervisors’ budget committee, said that’s the recommendation that will go to the full Board of Supervisors when it considers the overall county budget later this month. The supervisors have to tell the School Board the minimum amount in local taxes the county will provide by the end of April.
“We’re pleased we can do that this year,” Austin said after getting assurances from the superintendent that student/teacher ratios would not be affected by the budget cuts.
In fact, the school administration has not changed the number of positions it plans on cutting since just after the budget process began. The school division will lose 32 positions across all areas of operation—in instruction, administration, attendance, pupil transportation, operations and maintenance and technology.
Those, combined with reductions in the amount the county will have to pay into the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) next fiscal year, account for nearly $2.7 million in cuts.
The General Assembly reduced the amount the school division has to pay into the VRS, but that money will have to be made up at a later date, and it allowed the county to maintain its current Composite Index (CI). The CI is used to determine a county’s “ability to pay” or its wealth, and changes in that index determine how much “basic aid” the county gets per pupil from the state.
Botetourt’s CI was scheduled to go up, which means its basic aid would go down. Instead, the General Assembly agreed that counties like Botetourt, whose CI would cost state dollars, would be “held harmless” at least in the 2010-11 fiscal year. So, Botetourt will get the same amount of state basic aid as it did this year.
The county is expected to get $23 million in state funds, almost $2.3 million less than the current year. The state is also cutting out over $1.6 million in federal stimulus dollars that will not be available in the 2010-11 fiscal year.
The Botetourt School Board used the federal stimulus money for one-time expenses this year because the board didn’t expect it would be available again.
All together, the school division is cutting about $6.5 million from its 2008-09 budget—although part of that is the VRS savings provided in the 2010-11 budget.
There will be no pay raises for any personnel in the upcoming budget—the third year teachers and other school employees will not get a raise.
The school division also is avoiding cutting any popular programs such as athletics, music, Governor’s Schools and extra-curricular activities.
Some of the cuts outside of personnel and the associated costs include projected budgeted savings for health insurance, property/casualty insurance, not buying new buses, reducing the capital improvements that will be done and reducing expected expenditures for substitute teachers.
The cuts do interrupt the school division’s capital improvement plan and its bus replacement schedule. Buses are on a 12-year replacement cycle, which means at some point the board will have to adjust the replacement schedule or buy extra buses—costs that will come due just as the VRS payments will come due.