Schools ask supervisors for more money

Keller presented a more than 20-minute overview of the schools, touting accomplishments despite several budget problems. Fluvanna County High School was awarded a Silver Medal from U.S. News and World Reports rankings of best high schools in America in 2012, she said. Fluvanna also has the 12th highest graduation rate in Virginia.
But those accomplishments didn’t help in the money department.

Getting rid of the trailers used as classrooms for years didn’t bring in as much money as expected, Keller said.

Also, in order to balance the budget, the school board moved money within the budget from operations to instruction, causing a deficit.

Keller suggested the supervisors give schools $100,487 in unexpected money and allow them to use $150,000 set aside for capital improvements to pay for the operations deficit. She had no suggestions on from where the remaining $308,173 would come.

At the end of the presentation, the supervisors took no action.

Supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union) asked during new business if the board was going to act on Keller’s request.

Supervisors Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra) Don Weaver (Cunningham) and Chair Shaun Kenney (Columbia) said they thought what Keller gave was a presentation, not a plea.

Supervisor Joe Chesser (Rivanna) saw it as both.

“It was a presentation and a plea,” Chesser said.

Keller agreed. The superintendent said she sent a letter to the board prior to her presentation asking for the money.
“I sent a letter. That was a request,” Keller said.

Ullenbruch said it was wrong for the schools to complain about a school roof leaking but asking the board to allow schools the flexibility to use money set aside for that on operations.

“There are complaints of the roof leaking and people slipping on the floor,” Ullenbruch said. “You have $150,000 earmarked (to fix it) then to tell the public there’s a problem and say we’re not going to fix it? Those safety improvements must be done.”

Keller, Kenney, County Administrator Steve Nichols and School Board Chair Camilla Washington have been meeting monthly, Keller said.

During Wednesday’s discussion, Kenney said despite those regular meetings, he was surprised he had to hear about the opening of Abrams Academy from a press release.

In May, when the Board announced a $2.6 million cut to the school budget, it suggested the schools close the Abrams building to save $250,000 annually.

“We couldn’t do that, because that is the technology center,” Keller said.

“So move the technology center,” Kenney said.

Booker asked why Kenney didn’t know about the Abrams Academy before he was given a press release.

“What’s the purpose of you (Keller) meeting with our Chair and Steve Nichols? He (Kenney) has real questions,” Booker said. “I look to that meeting as the place where he’d be the person who would have a deeper understanding of the issues and it seems my chair is just as confused. What are you all doing? Drinking coffee and eating donuts?”

In the end, the supervisors did vote to approve a supplemental appropriation for $21,976 from the state for Project Graduation funds.

In May, when the Board of Supervisors cut the school budget by $2.6 million, Keller said they might not be able to open the new high school.

In the end, Keller said, that wouldn’t have been wise, so they did what they could do to make it happen. As a result of unexpected utility costs, higher gas prices, the cost of litigation on collapsed water tanks at the new high school and the company hauling away old school trailers nickel and diming the school for every ding, the schools are in a financial bind again, Keller said.

Kenney said there seems to be a “lack of transparency” in the school board budget.

“In September, they said they had a shortfall of $180,000. We said, ‘OK, if you can get it down to $140,000, maybe we can come up with $70,000 and you find $70,000, we can fix it. Now it’s $580,000. The goal posts moved and something is up. No one is anyone’s enemy. We just want to know what’s going on.”

The supervisors will discuss the matter further in October.

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