Board votes to keep school division’s carryover funds
Schools sought funds to upgrade wireless technology, pay for maintenance projects
PRINCE GEORGE — “Wow” was all School Board member Kevin Foster could say following the county board’s decision on Tuesday to keep the school system’s unspent funds from last year.
At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the Board of Supervisors voted to put the school division’s fiscal year 2018 carryover money into the county’s coffers, denying the school system’s request to use the $539,000 for several projects.
In an interview on Wednesday, School Board Chairman Robert Cox Jr. said he was not expecting
the board to consider the funding request on Tuesday. Once members of School Board realized it was being considered, they asked supervisors to table a vote until school officials could provide answers to any questions that might arise.
“I just heard yesterday (Tuesday) that the board had some questions,” Cox said. “You can’t tell me that 500,000 plus dollars will be spent before the end of January. They could have just tabled it. ”
But at the meeting, Supervisor Alan Carmichael moved to keep the money in the county’s fund balance. The motion was seconded by Supervisor TJ Webb. On a 3 to 2 vote, the motion passed, with Chairman Donald Hunter and Supervisor Marlene Waymack dissenting.
In a phone interview, Hunter said, “I thought it was the right thing to do. I’m not about to tell someone how to run their budget. Sometimes you may want to save money for last-minute emergencies, though this was a lot to save for last-minute emergencies, but I’m not trying to second-guess their decision.”
In a letter to the county administration, Superintendent Renee Williams explained how the excess amount would be allocated in the FY2019 budget if the Board of Supervisors approved the request.
Items to be funded included $120,500 for wireless infrastructure to address issues and improve the division’s wireless connectivity and meet the state’s requirements for testing.
The remaining $463,000 would have funded several projects in the operations and maintenance category, including HVAC repairs at J.E.J. Moore Middle School, division-wide roof maintenance, electrical switch gears at each school, electrical work at the high school, new pumping fixtures throughout and paving around Prince George High School.
Cox said the division will work to try to get some of those items completed through its maintenance fund, but without the carryover money, some things just won’t get done.
Regarding money left over at the end of the fiscal year, “I’ve been told before that we need to spend all of the money,” Cox said. “But we’re not going to spend it just to spend it. That’s not being good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.”
Asked if there would be any carry over funds in the future, Cox said there would always be money left. “With a 60 million dollar budget, you’re not going to get it to the penny,” he said. “I think the county board should be appreciative of the
School Board for always turning back money at the end of the year. We’ve returned as much as three million dollars.”
Last year, money was saved in the fuel budget because of low gas prices. Also, some projects have to wait until the end of school around mid-June to be completed. The fiscal year ends June 30.
“We can’t go into the classrooms and put in new LED lights when kids are in there,” Cox said. “We can’t redo gym floors or replace the track when school is in session.”
Cox suggested it would have been acceptable if supervisors voted to allocate some money back to the School Board and kept part of it.
Cox said he will recommend that the School Board draft a letter to the county requesting that the two governing bodies meet to talk about their Memorandum of Understanding, which details the county’s policy for funding the school syste and also addresses school construction and carryover funds.
“We need to sit in a room together and discuss these matters. We get nowhere if we keep going back and forth one or two people talk to one or two people on two different boards,” Cox said. “We are supposed to work together for the good of the county. Don’t get in the gutter — let’s stay on the sidewalk and talk.”