School budget

Though they didn’t make any final decisions, supervisors discussed upping school funding for fiscal year 2017 (FY17) by $1 million – $700,000 for operations and $300,000 for technology.

Though the Board of Supervisors allocates funding to the schools, it doesn’t decide how that money is spent. The School Board sets its own budget.

But by possibly shifting technology needs into the capital improvements plan (CIP), supervisors would be able to make sure that the $300,000 was actually spent on technology rather than being absorbed into the school budget.

In the past when the schools haven’t received the full amount of their request, they have shifted funds they had hoped to spend on technology into other areas, such as staffing.

Technology is one of the first places to be slashed when schools don’t receive the full amount they’ve asked for, said Supervisor Tony O’Brien.

When given the choice between supporting employees who can “look you in the eye” and spending funds on technology needs, employees usually win out, said O’Brien. “That’s just a reality,” he said.

“Across the Commonwealth, school boards aren’t going to pick technology over staff,” said Ed Breslauer, director of finance for the schools.

Put together, the schools’ formal funding request for FY17 and informal estimate for FY18 constitute an amount equal to an almost 12-cent increase in the tax rate.

Currently Fluvanna’s real property tax rate is set at 89.9 cents per $100 valuation. But supervisors will likely have to raise taxes this year to make the budget work.

Social services also has pressing needs for supervisors to consider, said Director Kim Mabe.

Currently Fluvanna has 10 children in foster care, but there are no foster care workers, Mabe said. Not only that, but the caseload has increased by 56 percent due to new domestic violence regulations, she said.

Children who witness a domestic violence incident now need the attention of child protective services (CPS), Mabe said. In the past the regulations only applied to children who were injured in a domestic violence incident. So Mabe has requested funding for another social services position.

“We’re in desperate need of this position,” Mabe said. “As we speak I think I have two [more] CPS workers that are leaving because of the high caseload.” Just a month ago Mabe told supervisors that 15 of 25 workers have left Fluvanna social services in one year.

“We’re not doing our citizens any favors,” Mabe said. “It takes two years to train a CPS worker. When you have children whose life and health are at imminent risk you need trained staff to be able to deal with that.”

Mabe has advocated for higher salaries for her staff to help alleviate the extraordinarily high turnover rate.

County Administrator Steve Nichols said that while Mabe’s staff may be underpaid, so are the staff of many other county departments.

“I hear you, but I’m here on behalf of social services,” said Mabe.

“I’m here for the entire county,” said Nichols.

Supervisors added the position into their list of funding possibilities.

Later in the evening, Supervisor Mozell Booker tried to turn attention back to social services. “I don’t like how the social services conversation went,” she said.

Chairman Mike Sheridan banged the gavel over her comments, saying that the Board had moved on.

“She’s not out of order,” O’Brien said.

Sheridan said the social services conversation had ended.

Supervisors also set aside possible funding for a new law enforcement officer.

When the county fair came up, Supervisor Trish Eager noted that in a “really tough” budget year, there might not be enough money for a new deputy. “How can we say we’ll spend $10,000 on a fair?” she asked.

“I don’t know where all the money’s coming from,” said Supervisor Don Weaver.


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