Carroll County Schools Superintendent Dr. Strader Blankenship described the budget for the 2014-2015 school year as “the tightest budget I’ve ever been associated with” following his presentation to Carroll County School Board members.
“There is no play in this budget,” said Blankenship.
The school board will be asking for level funding from the Carroll County Board of Supervisors, that is to say it will request funding of $11,299,437, the same as last year. The reason for that, said Blankenship, is due to the loss of grant money and the end of several title programs next year, the school board will receive less state and federal money.
“There’s no new money next year, unless it’s minor stuff,” said Blankenship. “Next year, there’s no question we’ll have to go back (to the supervisors) and ask for more money.”
The main reason the school board is able to ask for level funding from the supervisors this year is due to an increase in state funding. Last year, the school board received $23,216,092 from the state, but this year is expected to receive $24,736,051.
“We’re very fortunate. We’re one of only three counties in Southwest Virginia that went up (in state funding),” said Blankenship, noting the increase in funds was due to a decrease in the Local Composite Index from .2831 to .2695.
The index determines a school division’s ability to pay education costs fundamental to the commonwealth’s Standards of Quality (SOQ). It is calculated using three indicators of a locality’s ability-to-pay - true value of real property (weighted 50 percent), adjusted gross income (weighted 40 percent) and taxable retail sales (weighted 10 percent). Each locality’s index is adjusted to maintain an overall statewide local share of 45 percent and an overall state share of 55 percent.
That increase in state funds helped offset several budget challenges, including a 5.7 percent health insurance increase, a Virginia Retirement System increase of 24 percent, and increase in Group Life, mandated VRS employee contribution with offsetting salary increase of 1 ½ percent, and decreased federal funding, which is expected to be $300,000. In addition, the school system is expecting a decrease in enrollment next year, from an Average Daily Membership (ADM) of 3,865 this year to 3,820 next year.
Although the school board will receive less funding from the federal government and other revenue sources, the school board budget for next year will be $40,871,311, up from $39,656,597 this year.
The budget includes program enhancements in several areas, including an EMT/firefighter position, a full-time gifted teacher, a technology/media position and an increase of nurse days from 182 to 185.
A breakdown of the school system operating budget shows that the state provides 60.52 percent of the school’s revenue, the county 27.65 percent, the federal government 10.67 percent and other sources 1.16 percent.
As for expenditures, instruction accounts for 70.13 percent, operations and maintenance services 10.07 percent, pupil transportation 7.53 percent, technology 4.22 percent, administration, attendance and health 4.04 percent, and non-instruction operations 4.01 percent.
Later in the meeting, Blankenship addressed two issues - textbooks and buses - that would affect future budgets. One textbook adoption is taking place this year and another is scheduled for next year. In addition, Blankenship said the bus fleet is getting old and replacements need to be purchased.
“We really need five new buses per year. They are outside of this (year’s) budget, but I’m going to ask the supervisors that be considered strongly,” said Blankenship, who will request the funds needed for buses through a capital improvement plan request.
The school board will meet again on March 24 at 4 p.m. in the third floor conference room. The purpose of the meeting is to approve the 2014-2015 School Operational, Food Service and Textbook Budgets along with any other such business matters as may come before the board, prior to presenting its budget to the board of supervisors later that night.
Michael Howlett can be contacted at 276-728-7311 or Twitter@MikeEHowlett