The Warren County School Board would like to secure the $1.2 million share of the school division’s fiscal year 2023 budget allocated by the Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS) as soon as possible.
“Although it’s been said 150,000 times, I hope we can look at that $1.2 million as soon as possible,” said school board member Antoinette Funk, referring to the amount of money the BOS has approved for the school division, but still hasn’t said it’s not appropriate.
Funk chairs the joint budget committee of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and the Warren County School Board, which met on Monday, September 12.
The joint committee was formed earlier this year for members of both councils to tackle the county’s education budget and related expenditures.
Those present at Monday’s meeting were School Board members Funk and Andrea Lo, Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Christopher Ballenger and WCPS Chief Financial Officer Robert Ballentine, BOS members Delores Oates and Vicky Cook, Warren County Administrator Edwin Daley and the county’s chief financial officer. Matt Robertson.
Funk’s request (above, at a previous school board meeting) came in the last about five minutes of the joint committee meeting that lasted nearly an hour. She was referring to the $1.2 million the BOS is still considering allocating to schools.
The division was 75% funded to start the school year, or about $6.9 million. BOS recently approved $5.7 million, leaving $1.2 million outstanding.
There were identified needs that the school division had in the budget, but they were put on hold because the funds were not allocated to the operating budget at this time. These included additional teaching positions, supplements and other costs.
Part of the reason the BOS held the funds was to ensure there was enough funding for county capital projects. The Warren County BOS provides the school division with 40% of its annual funding.
At the joint committee meeting, Oates, who is vice president of BOS, said that one of the concerns of BOS was the planned renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School “and what the reality of that will actually be by compared to speculation,” she said. . “There are uncertainties there. I know we also have E. Wilson Morrison [Elementary School]; if there’s a way to make it a priority at some point for these kids, that’s another consideration.
Funk said that while she understands BOS’s concerns, “from our perspective, it just feels like you’re holding a portion of the operating budget for capital rather than operations, which it was initially for. planned…Because we originally approved it for operations, and some of it is being held back for capital…and that really puts us in a tough spot, obviously.We might have to talk to our staff about not not yet receive the supplement,” she said, adding that the school board had told WCPS staff that the board was continuing to work to secure the funds. “And we don’t want to be in the same situation next September. “, she said.
One concern for BOS going forward, Oates continued, is the sustainability of some of the budget decisions that were made at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “What will happen with future funding, the biennial budget? There are so many things,” Oates said. “The $1.2 million cannot be used for capital; it can be used for future operations. But it’s up to you. We have adapted it for schools.
“But we don’t have it for operations yet,” Funk said.
Cook pointed out that one of the purposes of reassessing the school division’s budget each quarter is to review its performance, “and if there’s anything in there…then we’ll discuss it,” said Cook. she declared.
“Well, again, I just want to repeat that I hope it happens next September. [for the 2024 budget] we’re not sitting here trying to get a finalized budget that should have been done in March,” Funk said. “And I think you guys [the BOS] want that too.
“Absolutely,” Oates said.
“We don’t want it to go from March to September, but that’s the realization of where we are,” Funk said.
Another problem, Oates pointed out, was that the Virginia General Assembly [GA] only approved a budget at the end of July. “A lot of it had nothing to do with the supervisors,” she said. “It had to do with the GA.”
Funk acknowledged that was also “a huge factor.”
Oates also said local state governments are essentially learning on the fly how to navigate the budget cycle, which from 2020 to present has been impacted by the pandemic, as well as new state legislators. “It’s new territory,” she said. “We are all trying to learn.”
The BOS wants to plan for the school division’s future needs “and not get into a situation where we can’t fund something,” Oates said.
Superintendent Ballenger said, “And that’s what we do – plan where we need to go.”
Regarding funding for the renovation of Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School, Ballenger updated the joint committee, indicating that approximately $245,800 would be available from cafeteria funds, with an additional $217,700 coming from value engineering savings identified by the general contractor. Additional savings are also being made by other contractors, he told committee members, which could help reduce the school’s renovation costs by about $15.5 million to the disposable income of the school division for the $14.8 million project.
“We’re still waiting for four or five contractors to recover from other things,” he said, “and we estimate that’s about $128,000. But of course we don’t know until they give us their numbers. So, value engineering currently totals approximately $463,500,” excluding estimated items yet to come. The renovation project is scheduled to begin on January 1, 2023.
The Joint Budget Committee has also set its next meeting for Monday, October 24 at 4 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Warren County Government Center, 220 N. Commerce Ave., Front Royal, Va.