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School year finishes with surplus

At its most recent meeting on Wednesday (July 12) the Fluvanna County School Board found out that fiscal year 2017 (FY17) is ending with a surplus.

Brenda Gilliam, executive director in charge of curriculum instruction and finance, said about $408,000 will be carried into the FY18 budget.

The total surplus may be much higher. Gilliam’s current estimate puts FY17’s surplus at around $1.73 million. Closing out a fiscal year takes months, Gilliam said, so the final figures won’t be available until September or October.

The School Board cannot automatically retain all money that it doesn’t spend in a given fiscal year, but must instead ask the Board of Supervisors to re-appropriate it – a request supervisors sometimes grant and sometimes deny.

But the $408,000 in question comes entirely from state and federal dollars, such as grants, that are slated for particular programs. The funds “are for that purpose – they aren’t funds that are returned to the county,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam said that the School Board plans to ask supervisors for additional carryover money in the fall.

Gilliam presented the budget report because Ed Breslauer took a job with the Loudoun County school system.

When Gilliam reported on the FY18 budget of $39,634,787, she noted highlights:

  • Increased per pupil allocation to schools to $70 per student from $61 per student in FY17;
  • Increased allocation for library books to $10 per student;
  • Budgeting for a 1.5 percent bonus to all staff, if projected utility savings are realized;
  • Decrease in health insurance rates from FY17;
  • Negotiated $0.999 per gallon for propane for 65,000 gallons; and
  • Implementation of Munis for both payroll and accounts payable.

Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) asked what the “pupil allocation” referred to.

Superintendent Charles Winkler said it is the amount each teacher gets for supplies for each student.

Rittenhouse looked surprised. “I always have teachers tell me they never see any of that money,” he said.

Winkler said the allocation is part of every unit principal’s budget and they typically give half at the start of the year and the rest at a later date.

“We are continuing to make improvements in that area,” Winkler said. “If teachers tell you that, please tell them to talk to their principal or have them talk to me.”

Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) said when she was teaching, she and other teachers learned to stop asking for the money because they were told there wasn’t any.

“For many years people have been told ‘no’ so often they just quit asking,” Johnson said. “We’ve created the perception: ‘We don’t have it so don’t ask.’”

Winkler acknowledged that may have been true years ago, but the administration is trying to change that. “It used to be teachers had to pay for their own paper, but we supply that now,” Winkler said.

Johnson suggested letting teachers know. “We need to work on communicating that to the teachers,” she said.

Winkler said he would ask all the principals to tell him how they allocate the funds.

Don Stribling, who is now the executive director of human resources and operations, told the Board most open positions have been filled, but they’re having trouble hiring a school psychiatrist. He assured the Board they will find someone who is the right fit.

When it came time to vote on the Virginia School Board Association policies, Johnson said she was unhappy with the wording on excused and unexcused absences.

Rittenhouse repeated his opposition to the move to using non-gender pronouns throughout the policies. He also questioned the policy on driver’s education teachers telling students how to respond when they are stopped by police. “It doesn’t say how they are supposed to respond – what are they being told?” he asked.

Gilliam said she was sure the policy reflected the state code.

Rittenhouse requested that the vote to approve the policy be delayed until he received an answer to his question. Then he joined the Board in voting 3-1 to accept the policy. Johnson voted no because of the absence wording, she said. Camilla Washington (Columbia) was absent.

The Board approved the parent’s resource guide and gave Gilliam the responsibility of being the School Board’s agent for paying bills in accordance with state code.

Winkler reported on building upgrades:

  • Central Elementary’s HVAC and lighting work is about 60 percent complete. Trane has committed to finishing by Aug. 4;
  • New windows should be installed within the next month at the School Board Office. HVAC upgrades are next on the agenda; and
  • Middle school bathroom renovations are going well, but are slightly behind schedule. Officials have met with the contractors and a liquidated damages clause is in place.

The Board seminar is scheduled for July 26 at 8:30 a.m.

Christina Dimeo contributed to this story.