School board, su­per­vi­sors tout a ‘fru­gal budget’

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Matt Wing­field Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

De­spite in­form­ing the county board of su­per­vi­sors — and 15 or so mem­bers of the pub­lic gath­ered last Thurs­day night (March 20) at the su­per­vi­sors’ and school board’s joint budget meet­ing — that they were able to al­lo­cate an additional $59,000 to­ward the 2014-15 school budget, Rap­pa­han­nock County’s school board is still not re­quest­ing any additional funds from the county — or the pub­lic.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Donna Matthews started the hour-long meet­ing by ex­plain­ing to the su­per­vi­sors how the board ar­rived at its $12.47 mil­lion budget — the same to­tal as last year’s budget.

The ex­tra money, Matthews said, came from re­vised health in­sur­ance fig­ures, and to­talled $59,423. The board made plans to di­vide that money among sev­eral cat­e­gories at a budget meet­ing March 13, in­clud­ing bus re­pairs, a sup­ple­ment for the Next Step pro­gram ($2,700) and re­pair­ing the aer­a­tors at the el­e­men­tary school ($25,000).

Matthews then re­capped the cuts the board has al­ready made for the su­per­vi­sors. All told, the board ap­proved a step raise for teach­ers (a $41,342 cost) and still man­aged to trim $237,070 from last year’s budget.

“I feel like it’s a re­ally good budget,” Matthews added.

Those cuts in­cluded $ 15,000 for the ( now va­cant) Next Step col­lege- place­ment co­or­di­na­tor po­si­tion, a $ 95,000 re­duc­tion in el­e­men­tary and high school text­books ( pos­si­ble be­cause no new text­books need to be adopted this year), $ 22,000 from the school main­te­nance fund and more.

Hamp­ton district su­per­vi­sor S. Bryant Lee had some con­cerns over the text­books’ funds — specif­i­cally over whether a fu­ture state- man­dated text­book change would re­quire an in­crease to that fund. Matthews said it likely would, but added that text­books are on a six- year cy­cle and it would be a while be­fore an­other change was re­quired.

“You’ve clearly worked hard this year to trim the budget down, and it’s a big help,” Lee added.

County Ad­min­is­tra­tor John McCarthy also chimed in with a few com­ments re­lated to the el­e­men­tary school aer­a­tors — a key part of the school’s wa­ter sys­tem. Two were re­placed 17 years ago and the re­main­ing ones are “limp­ing along,” McCarthy said. Los­ing as aer­a­tor, McCarthy pointed out, would ne­ces­si­tate clos­ing school.

McCarthy also said he was pleased to see funds pre­vi­ously de­voted to small- scale ver­sions of large- scale re­pairs — like $ 1,200 for the high school bleachers and funds for the re­place­ment of the el­e­men­tary school’s win­dows — were be­ing looked at and cut in fa­vor of com­plet­ing the projects all at once down the road.

“It’s a won­der­ful budget and I praise you for it,” McCarthy said, “but I would en­cour­age you to keep those aer­a­tors as a high pri­or­ity.”

The rest of the meet­ing was of a con­grat­u­la­tory na­ture, as

Praise for Matthews: “We wanted some­one to come in and take charge . . . and ed­u­cate kids in the best pos­si­ble way. She’s very fru­gal and that’s what we were

look­ing for.”

both school board mem­bers and su­per­vi­sors voiced their ap­proval of Matthews’ budget, each other and the com­mu­nity. “It’s im­pres­sive that you’ve been able to find money and move it around,” said Pied­mont district su­per­vi­sor Mike Biniek. “This is the first time

“It’s a won­der­ful budget and I praise you for it,” McCarthy said, “but I would en­cour­age you to keep those aer­a­tors as a

high pri­or­ity.”

I’ve seen so much work put into it.” Su­per­vi­sor chair­man Roger Welch echoed Biniek’s thoughts, and thanked Matthews for “trim­ming the fat.”

Jack­son district rep­re­sen­ta­tive Amy Hitt joked that she could have asked for “$ 3 mil­lion more” when de­sign­ing the budget, but praised Matthews’ job thus far as su­per­in­ten­dent. “We wanted some­one to come in and take charge . . . and ed­u­cate kids in the best pos­si­ble way. She’s very fru­gal and that’s what we were look­ing for.”

Wake­field district’s Chris Ubben summed up the evening by say­ing Matthews has “ex­ceeded all ex­pec­ta­tions” and com­mend­ing her specif­i­cally on the bal­anced budget. “I can’t guar­an­tee the same next year,” Ubben cau­tioned, “but it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the budget’s not a blank check; we should be re­spon­si­ble for it, and we have been.”

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