School Board passes smaller budget request

By Ruthann Carr, correspondent

At an emergency work session Monday (Feb. 18), the Fluvanna County School Board approved a fiscal year 2020 (FY20) budget to take to the Board of Supervisors Wednesday (Feb. 20).

They voted 4-1 with Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) voting against.

The new budget proposal asks for $991,319 more in local dollars than the board requested in FY19. The budget the board turned down on Feb. 13 would have asked for $1.3 million more.

The total local funding request now is $18,418.898. The proposed FY20 budget is $42,412,633.

Superintendent Chuck Winkler led the board through a worksheet in which he plugged in different numbers and places to cut.

The approved budget took out funding for a guidance counselor, a career and technical education teacher and high school girls’ field hockey.

It keeps the 3 percent minimum staff raise.

Winkler presented several scenarios for the board to consider. One of them was cutting even more from the budget and reducing the local request to $18,073,898.

The numbers contained in each of the different scenarios got confusing, even to the board members.

Andrew Pullen said in an email he realized as he was driving home he voted for an amount different than he intended.

“I spoke several times in favor of ‘plan 1’ and for whatever reason, when the motion was made, I assumed that it was for that plan and I voted yes,” Pullen wrote in the email. “I didn’t realize my mistake until I was driving down the road and thinking about it. It wouldn’t have mattered either way, but wanted to explain why I supported one plan, and then voted for another.”

Before the vote, Pullen said multiple times he expected to be back in April looking for places to cut more from the budget. He said he’d be surprised if the Board of Supervisors gave them everything they ask for.

Before the board discussed the budget, they held public comments.

Two teachers spoke. Matthew Morrison said he supported Winkler’s original budget.

“It seems as though I must remind you all that it is not the responsibility of this body to determine whether or not the people of the county are willing and able to afford increased taxes,” Morrison said. “The people of this community did not put you here to prioritize or factor in taxation when determining the school budget. That is the duty of the Board of Supervisors. Your duty is to benefit your constituents in the school system: the students, teachers and staff.”

James Koczan also told the board it wasn’t their job to worry about what taxpayers can afford.

“Based on the results of last week’s meeting and quotes in the Fluvanna Review, it seems that our School Board clearly does not trust Mr. Winkler, they do not value his expertise, and they feel we are overspending in this county on education,” Koczan said. “We rank ninth out of 95 counties in the state in terms of net worth. We are not poor. Our school system is well above average and many would argue excellent. However, our funding and the dollars we spend are well below average.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the cafeteria and extended education budget of $1,527,569, which is $125,000 less than last year.

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