Wed08272014

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Colonial Beach school supporters won’t give up

After the dust has settled from Colonial Beach’s public hearing to raise taxes and fees, the CB Town Council will now meet on June 9, at 10 a.m. to discuss and vote on the town’s 2014-15 fiscal year budget. Although the public hearings are over, it seems school supporters are not going to give up without a fight. An electronic petition is being circulated around town by Facebook users.

The council will be hard-pressed to balance the budget and fully fund the school’s operating budget with the real estate tax increase of only $0.04, voted on at the May 21 public hearing.

At the May 21 hearing, on the table was a proposed real estate tax increase of $0.23 cents per $100 of value, reinstating the Town’s boat tax by increasing it from $0.01 to $1.39 per $100 in value, raising sewer usage rates by $25 per quarter and raising water connection fees by $1,000.

After the public hearings and some back and forth negotiations by members, the council played it safe, voting to raise real estate taxes by only $0.04 and sewer usage fees $25 per quarter for residents whose homes sit on solid foundations. Council decided to forgo the idea of raising the boat tax for those who can pull anchor and sail away, as well as avoiding a raise in water connection fees for new construction.

Originally, Council justified the proposed $0.23 increase in real estate as follows: $0.03 would fund the payments on a $2 million bond the Town plans to take out to fund the relocation of the elementary students and perform repairs to the high school on First Street. Council estimates every penny of the real estate tax increase would generate roughly $45,000 in revenue for the town.

The council believed that an additional $0.20 was needed to fully fund the school’s operating budget to cover what the town claims is a $998,383 difference from what the school is asking for, and what the state-required minimum contribution from the town requires.  

It was not crystal clear how much the town plans to fund the school after the May 21 public hearings, so in response to the council’s actions, the school presented Councilwoman Linda Brubaker (Council’s point of contact for the School) with a list of proposed operational budget cuts.

The following day, at the May 22 work session, Brubaker reported that she had met with Superintendent Kathleen Beane, School Director of Finance JD Martin, and Director of Federal Programs Tracey Tunstall. Brubaker said the meeting was cordial and that Martin was distressed, “He feels if the School cuts a dollar, the Town should cut a dollar.” Brubaker added, “Mr. Martin provided me with a humorous list of what the Town should cut; I don’t think they are worth bringing to the council at this time.”

The items the School proposed to cut from their operational budget include, but are not limited to, cutting several positions, including a school resource officer, bus driver positions, one secretary, one custodian and two paraprofessionals. The School also proposed eliminating $282,237 in transportation, athletics, regional governor’s school and STEM program, Northern Neck Technical Center vocational education, summer school, and gifted and talented programs.

Bus routes will be modified, and bus drivers will work either staggered shifts or double up some routes. The School will also eliminate a new bus lease, thereby cutting down on the number of buses.  

Former Town Councilman Tim Curtin has led the fight to fully fund the school system by creating an electronic petition, which is being signed by folks in support of the school system. On the evening of June 2, there were 313 signers. The petition is located on thepetitionsite.com and can be accessed by searching “Save-colonial-beach-schools”. Curtin will present the council with the results of the petition via the Town Clerk.

The June 9 meeting is open to the public, and all interested parties are welcome to attend.

Linda Farneth

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