- Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 15:42
- Published on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 15:40
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CB Schools Superintendent Kathleen Beane was very emotional when she heard the news that CB Town Council had approved the 2013-2014 school year budget, in full.
The budget amount approved was almost $400,000 more than last year’s budget, due to reduced federal funding and the need to replace three aging trailers used for classes on the elementary campus.
In a special town council meeting last Thursday, Mayor Mike Ham explained to the audience that due to federal cutbacks, the school system has lost almost $1 million in federal funding, “We normally fund them about $1.75 million per year,” he said. “It’s going to take about $2.15 million this year, so we’re talking about a $400,000 shortfall.”
Tracey Tunstall led the presentation for the school system. “Several sequestrations have definitely come down, and all of our grant funding has been cut by about five-percent. Federal budget cuts are due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds running out.”
Tunstall laid out the cuts that the school has already made. The original shortfall for the schools’ budget started at over $800,000. Tunstall explained that the school has already cut personnel expenses by $200,370 and non-personnel expenses by $259,037, totaling almost $460,000 in expense cuts.
Tunstall briefly outlined the required jobs. Some people in positions that were previously federally funded, where cuts have been made, have left the school system. She also explained that many of the administrators have taken on multiple additional duties to avoid having to fill those positions, thereby cutting staffing expenses.
Aside from the reduced federal funding, the school system is looking at several costs associated with its elementary school campus. The cafeteria is in need of a new roof. Three of the trailers utilized by the students are over forty years old, and are no longer safe to continue using. These trailers are in deplorable condition, according to school board officials.
The school system also lost valuable space when the elementary campus’ central two-story building (the old CB High School building) was deemed to be unsafe after it was damaged by the rare Virginia Earthquake, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011. Inspection of the damages caused by the storms revealed other damages from a lack of maintenance, resulting in the school system having to vacate the condemned middle school building, and eventually having to build a middle school mod pod behind the high school building located on First St.
A portion of the extra funding needed for the schools’ budget comes from the need to replace the trailers and for repairs to the cafeteria and its roof. Also addressed was the high cost of heating and air conditioning for the gymnasium (formerly known as the “Cracker Box”).
The CB School System presented three solutions to safely house the elementary students next year. The first solution was the schools’ least favorable scenario, but the only way to handle the safety issue without requesting more significant funding. The elementary school would utilize the gymnasium, which is attached to the two-story 100-year-old condemned building, for some classes and the library trailer for others.
School officials, however, were concerned about utilizing the gym because it is attached to the condemned building. The gym has been deemed safe, but its capacity is limited to 49 people by the fire marshal, and heating and cooling bills for the gym are astronomical.
Negative factors in utilizing the gym would include: no air conditioning, the lack of noise control, a lack of security, no space for indoor physical education classes, no computer lab for the lower grades, technology issues, and students and staff in the gym would have no restroom access without leaving the building.
The second solution was to replace the old trailers with new ones. The most positive factor would be that students and staff would be removed from the existing unhealthy and unsafe conditions of the old trailers.
Negative factors would include: challenges with campus security, not allowing for efficient use of staff, and this scenario does not address the issues of the cafeteria roof or the high cost of heating the gym.
“The cost is estimated at $80,000 to just put a band-aid on the problem,” Tunstall said.
The third and most favorable solution was to move the elementary school campus to the high school property. The school currently leases three mod pods for the elementary school from Mobile Modular Management Corporation. The company would move one existing mod pod to the high school property and swap out the other two. Colonial Beach Elementary School would exist as its own separate campus on the property.
All schools would be housed on the same property, reducing costs for transportation, electric use, staffing and other maintenance costs. The Modular Rental company provides all maintenance to their modular units. The leases are month to month, so if the school did decide to build in the future, it would not cost the school to remove the mod pods, and there would be no lease agreement to fulfill.
Other benefits would include one drop-off location for all students, reducing time and transportation for both the school system and parents with children in multiple schools.
The biggest benefit would be security. Currently with the elementary school campus being spread out over a large area and around the old two-story building which has been condemned unsafe to enter. Being on the same property, all three schools can combine money for safety resources.
The initial costs would run from $200,000 to $250,000. The average monthly cost would increase from the current amount of $15,000 to $18,950, a monthly difference of only around $4,000. Costs of savings for maintenance, heating and air conditioning, as well as staff reductions and transportation costs have not yet been calculated.
After much deliberation, the town council passed a resolution to fund the entire $2,153,198 budget the school system has requested.
School officials can breathe easy now. They can start planning for the move right away, ensuring that the elementary school is located on the high school campus as soon as possible.
According to Tracey Tunstall, “Realistically, we would like it to happen before the new year, hopefully in the first month.” But there are several actions that need to take place before the move can be complete. Tunstall said that the school is usually at the mercy of the utility companies’ schedules such as Dominion Virginia Power and Verizon.
The council is now tasked with finding funding. Only four officials admitted they would raise real estate taxes, and only if absolutely necessary. But all agreed to commit to the school system and to work diligently to find funding solutions without raising taxes.