School tinkers with tough budget

In order to balance the budget and still meet contractual obligations to pay personnel, the school board voted unanimously to allow Superintendent Gena Keller to dip into the operations and transportation budget.

‘The board understood that this was going to be a very tight year, but I don’t think we knew that we would be sitting at the board in September, moving amongst categories so soon,” said School Board Chair Camilla Washington. “It’s critical that the community understands that and that they express that to their Board of Supervisors.”

“I hope we’re not in the position where we might be violating state regulations because of funding,” said school board member William Hughes.

Breslauer and Keller also spent some time asking direct questions about the 300-page spreadsheet that outlines the budget for the school division. Recently, a few citizens have asked about the $597,000 listed in July’s School Board packet as an “unexpended balance.”

“It’s not the amount of money unspent, it’s the unused expenditure authority,” said Keller. “We can only spend what we actually receive from our revenue sources – state, local and federal. The authorized expenditure amount that we are given authority to spend doesn’t necessarily reflect our actual revenue.”

Keller gave an example. Last year the state authorized $270,000 to be utilized for nursing, but the expenditures for nursing in Fluvanna were only $178,000 – meaning that the extra $92,000 never hit the Fluvanna books as revenue, but was rather listed as “unexpended balance.”

“School budgeting is so convoluted,” said Keller. “Quite often you have to spend money to make money because you get your money through reimbursements … it’s not because of Fluvanna, it’s just how school budgets are.”

Keller and Breslauer encouraged citizens who are concerned about school budgeting issues to attend one of their monthly Budget 101 sessions, the next of which is on Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. in the School Board Meeting Room of the Palmyra School Building on Rt. 15.

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