Schools get $500,000 in budget carryovers

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna County School Board closed out 2023 with a relatively brief meeting on Thursday night (Dec. 8).

Superintendent Peter Gretz and Chair James Kelley (Palmyra) discussed a presentation they delivered to the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday night (Dec. 7) which resulted in the approval of around $500,000 in budget carryovers.

At its November meeting, the school board voted unanimously to request $794,000 in carryovers. A carryover is the re-appropriation of funds allocated from one fiscal year into the next, and is often used for incomplete projects or ongoing projects. 

Supervisors approved $144,000 to retrofit a dozen school buses with air conditioning units, $100,000 for a new public address system for the high school, and $300,000 in bonuses to faculty and staff to bring them into line with bonuses given to other county staff.

However, they declined to approve a $250,000 carryover request to cover rising fuel costs. Gretz said the supervisors felt that item didn’t fit the criteria for carryover funds, but they had indicated that they were willing to look at an allocation under a different budget procedure if the schools needed it.

“It was a very productive conversation, I believe,” said Gretz. 

Kelley praised the supervisors’ willingness to work with the schools, particularly when it comes to issues like staff pay and bonuses.

Model Policies

Earlier this year, the General Assembly ordered the Department of Education (VDOE) to issue new model policies that give parents more influence over public education. School systems will be required to bring their policies into compliance with these new guidelines.

On Thursday, the school board had a first reading of the model policies. Most are minor tweaks to pre-existing guidelines. However, one new policy states that schools must “ensure parental notification” of instructional materials that contain any “sexually explicit content.”

Gretz outlined the procedure, which would require teachers to review materials for content 60 days before the start of the school year. Any material flagged as sexually explicit would then be passed to the school administration for further evaluation. Parents would have to be notified of anything deemed problematic 30 days before its first use in the classroom and would be given the opportunity to review it. They would then have the right to opt out of their children being taught material they found objectionable.

“There’s a law that says we have to adopt a policy in alignment with it, so it’s not up to us to say whether or not we want to adopt a policy like this,” said Kelley. 

He asked Gretz to name any common works of literature that might come under this ruling.

“I’m not sure I can, to be honest,” said Gretz. The only things that came to mind were certain passages in books like The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Canterbury Tales.

Kelley and Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) agreed that, on close reading, the new rules probably weren’t going to lead to any major changes in instruction once implemented.

Cost per pupil

As the board begins its work on the budget for the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24), the topic of cost-per-pupil came under discussion toward the end of the 90-minute session.

Currently, the per-pupil cost for Fluvanna County is $12,963. By comparison, Charlottesville pays $19,682 and the statewide average is $14,206.

Funding comes from several federal, state, and local sources. For Fluvanna County, each student receives:

$785 in federal funds;

$5,341 in state funds;

$5,339 in county funds;

$1,498 from sales tax revenue.

Fluvanna students received far less in federal dollars than nearby localities and only about half the statewide average of $1,327. Gretz said he hadn’t been able to come up with a clear explanation of why this was the case, but that it may be in part because Fluvanna isn’t seen demographically as a rural district or has simply not received the same level of grant funding as other localities.

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