Madison County Public Schools will see a loss of 5.5 positions next school year.
Monday night, the school board approved a budget that is approximately $1.2 million less than the current year’s budget.
Initially, the board approved an approximately $20.8 million budget which included a 2 percent raise for state employees which was largely covered by state funding; a 6 percent increase for bus drivers; a reduction in one full-time employee and the accompanying cosmetology program; a slight increase in VRS rates and funding for an expansion of middle school sports. The budget relied on an approximately $557,000 increase in local funding. The increased local funding was due to a drop in state funding. But, things have changed since that budget was approved. The supervisors opted to fund the schools an additional $325,000, far less than the requested amount and with COVID-19, the Governor pulled out funding associated with teacher raises, among other things. The budget approved Monday night includes a reduction in state revenue of $948,185.
With the financial changes, most of the items in the initially approved budget have been eliminated. Gone are employee raises and the expansion of middle school sports which would have offered softball, baseball and soccer at Wetsel Middle School. The cosmetology program remains eliminated along with the accompanying full-time position as well as two buses. One bus will be purchased this year, further reducing the increase in local funding to $238,000.
To make up the difference, 5.5 more positions have to be eliminated. Superintendent Anna Graham said the reductions will be made by leaving several positions vacant.
“Where people have already left us, we won’t fill,” she said.
Graham said an interventionist position added at the primary school last year will be eliminated with that employee moving to a teaching position. A teaching position at Waverly Yowell Elementary School will be left vacant as well as a physical education position at Madison County High School and a Spanish teaching position at Wetsel Middle School. Also left vacant will be an instructional assistant position and the athletic training will go from full-time to part-time. The position reductions save approximately $233,000.
School officials then went through the budget pulling out another $100,000 including reducing professional development by $10,000; furniture and equipment by $12,000; supplies and materials by $16,000; building maintenance by $25,000; fuel oil by $6,000; gas, oil and lubricant by $5,000; postage by $1,000; maintenance supplies by $5,000; equipment replacements by $15,000; and athletics by $5,000.
The school division will also hold back a large portion of the approximately $319,500 received in CARES Act funding.The funding was approved by Congress at the end of March and enables schools to move forward with gaps and inequities brought into focus by the ongoing pandemic as well as sustain ongoing efforts to keep students connected with learning while schools are closed and respond to emotional and mental health needs. The CARES Act gives local school divisions wide latitude in how the allocations are spent. Approved uses include services and expenses directly related to the pandemic including cleaning of schools and facilities; expenses related to providing extending learning opportunities; instructional and support services for economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, homeless students, migrant students, students in foster care and raial and ethnic minority students; expenses related to expanding and improving distance learning for all students; mental health services and career and technical education. Divisions have until Sept. 20, 2022 to spend the funds.
“I think it’s important to hold the funds back,” Graham said. “It’s tempting to go out and buy technology items, but people are more important than products and things.”
Also, she said The Coalition of Small and Rural Schools of Virginia, which Madison is part of, is working with legislators to create a safety net fund to cover further sales tax reductions and costs associated with enrollment dips should parents opt to homeschool children once schools reopen.
“We’re pretty proud right now that we’re hanging onto people,” Graham said.
School board member Arthur Greene, Jr. agreed.
“I realize budget season is never a happy season and a lot of decisions had to be made, but this is tough,” he said.
School board chairman Barry Penn Hollar said the most painful thing is employees will not get a raise, but that he thinks the teachers and staff understand and appreciate that the division is keeping people.
Graham said in order to implement raises, the division would have to eliminate an additional nine positions.
“It’s not worth it,” she said.
“We did all we possibly could to give raises, but things outside our control made it impossible to do,” Greene added.
The $19,969,691 budget was approved 5-0.