Superintendent Gena Keller asked the Board Wednesday night (Oct. 15) to cover the shortage, explaining that the need is partially based on the school system’s switch from a cash basis of accounting to an accrual basis, which is the method the county’s finance department uses.  Another reason for the shortage is a reduction in state funding due to Fluvanna’s drop in average daily membership (ADM) – a formula used by the state to determine the amount of money a school system will receive for the year.

After the meeting Keller explained that ultimately losses in revenue, especially in federal money, caused the school system to come up short.  The situation could have been much worse, she said – more to the tune of $600,000 – if her staff hadn’t kept an eye on federal and state funding and realized it was likely to be less than anticipated.

“It’s not really a savings, but actually we didn’t spend $500,000 that we were authorized to spend,” Keller said, citing cuts in supplies, professional development, and delayed personnel replacements.  “I’m not proud of these [cuts] but we had to cut back.”

Official counts show 69 fewer students enrolled in Fluvanna County Public Schools this year as compared to last year, said School Director of Finance Ed Breslauer.

“We didn’t have this [ADM funding] problem before when we were growing,” Chairperson Mozell Booker noted, “but now that we’re levelling off and these students are leaving…it’s harder.”

Supervisor Don Weaver, however, felt uncomfortable with the schools’ request.  “That concerns me how that happens in a period of maybe three months right at the end of the budget year, and [$98,000] came up…basically at the last minute,” he said.

In response, Keller noted that her $34 million budget has no contingency fund or padding for unexpected expenses.  “If you can’t end the year with 1 percent of your budget, then you have a budget that’s tighter and almost impossible to manage,” she said.  “So you’re sliding into home every year, doing the best you can to manage every single penny, hoping for no huge surprises or catastrophes.  And I think we did a really daggone good job of not spending over $500,000.”

If the schools had a contingency fund of, say, 1 percent, Keller said after the meeting, they never would have needed to have a public discussion about the funding shortage or approach supervisors for more money.  Rather, she said, they would have simply noted to themselves that they ended their fiscal year with $240,000 instead of $340,000 in their contingency fund.

But more school spending of any kind of course requires more pennies on the tax rate in a county where homeowners carry the overwhelming brunt of the tax burden.

County Administrator Steve Nichols pointed out a decision he said the Board needs to make.  “You have to decide whether you want [the school system] to live on the margins as they’ve been doing for the last few years, or to create a School Board contingency fund, like the BOS has a contingency fund, but that means you’d have to fund those additional dollars,” he said.

“We don’t want this to continue to happen,” Booker said.  “We do need to think about some way that we can alleviate the problem.”

Supervisors passed the funding request 4-0 with Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch absent.

In other matters:

The Board voted to extend a $39,000 loan from its general fund to the Fork Union Sanitary District (FUSD) effective June 30.  FUSD ended fiscal year 2014 with a negative cash balance due to insufficient revenue from water and cell towers.

The reassessment conducted this year shows an overall 2 percent increase in total taxable value, Nichols reported.  The reassessment will become effective in January.

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