Meg Hibbert Contributing writer
Craig County’s two sets of elected leaders clashed on April 6 over money. School officials expected the same funding as last year, and the Board of Supervisors told them the county doesn’t have it.
Four days after the Supervisors’ meeting, members of the Craig County School Board heard School Superintendent Jeanette Warwick’s recommendation on which programs will have to be cut because of $65,000 less projected in County funds for schools. See the related article in this week’s issue by Pam Dudding-Burch for specifics.
“This has been a very difficult budget and I do not see the County’s budgetary issues being easily resolved,” County Administrator Clay Goodman told Supervisors. In addition to needs the School Board has, the County has improvements to make to the Courthouse and the Department of Social Services, which are mandated.
One of the reasons for less county money than usual to spend is an unfunded state mandate for purchase new voting machines, he pointed out in documents for the Supervisors, and providing the local match to purchase a new ambulance.
“We don’t want to blame anybody,” School Board Vice Chairman Sue Crenshaw told Supervisors, “but we were hoping for the county money…You have to be penny wise and pound foolish, which has been our case,” she said, explaining that after the economic recession the schools used funds sparingly, and because of that had several levels of text books out of date, the parking lot of the schools was dangerous because of potholes, and the gym floor needed redoing.
Superintendent Warwick updated Supervisors on what is being done with capital improvement school funds: the gym floor should be finished this week, parking lots are scheduled to be redone in June, and air conditioning work is being added to four classrooms.
“We took the money out of our capital improvement fund because I don’t feel like I can wait,” Warwick said. She added that only $15,000 remains in the capital improvement fund.
Supervisors sympathized with school needs, but Vice Chairman Martha Murphy pointed out, “To us thie budget is the bare bones budget. If some of the money doesn’t come in we’re not able to take it from here and hand it to you.”
She added, “We give the schools the biggest portion we get in aid from state and federal money,” she added, referring to federal money paid to Craig County in lieu of taxes from National Forest land. More than 50 percent of the county is in the National Forest.
Craig County has little industry, and most of the county’s budget money comes from residential property tax. Consequently, the Board of Supervisors is proposing a 4 cents increase on real estate, making the total 60 cents per $100 value, which - if adopted after a public hearing in May – would go into effect with taxes for 2018.
Each 1 cent increase would generate $45,000, so if a 4-cent increase were approved, it would generate approximately $180,000.
The county budget reflects cuts the County Administrator, staff and department heads have come up with on the county’s side, including reducing travel, postage, and other aspects.
The largest increase to the county’s expenditures this year and anticipated for the future is Goodman gave credit to staff member Kathy Jones for her work preparing the Fiscal Year 2018 budget. Expected expenditures for Fiscal Year 2018 are $6.3 million, according to the proposed budget.