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School Board asks for $48,000 more for Old KGES roof repair

Superintendent Candace Brown appeared at last week’s Sept. 20 meeting of the King George Board of Supervisors on behalf of the School Board to ask for an additional appropriation of $48,181 to add to the $342,297 already appropriated to get the roof fixed at old King George Elementary School.

Bids were opened Aug. 11 for repair and replacement of various portions of the roof sections of the building, with all bids coming in higher than the budgeted amount. Gilday

Enterprises of Roanoke turned in the apparent low bid of $390,478.

The building houses the School Board offices in the two-story section built in 1963, along with two classes of Head Start. Eight classes of early childhood special education (ECSE) for special needs babies and toddlers are housed in the oldest part of the original high school built in 1938.

The item was on the agenda as a “discussion item.” None of the four supervisors at the meeting were in favor of funding the request at this time for various reasons.

James Mullen said he had thought the building was to be demolished, which was the original plan when King George Elementary School was built at Purkins Corner to replace it in 1997.

“I just hate to put money into a real old building that has a lot of problems,” Mullen said.

TOO EARLY TO MAKE BUDGET ADJUSTMENT
Supervisor Dale Sisson indicated the large size of the School Board budget precludes the need to make an adjustment this early in the fiscal year.

“My take on this is, making the budget adjustment now isn’t prudent,” he said. “I think within the School Board’s budget you could absorb that amount. And if there’s adjustments downstream that we need to take a look at, we can do that.”

But Brown said she wanted the money now due to concerns of a drop in state revenue because of lower enrollment than expected.

She said the budget is based on an “average daily membership” (ADM) of 4,165, saying the current enrollment is now 51 students lower than last year.

“Typically, ADM is even lower than student enrollment,” she added. “And if I use the state per pupil cost plus your local match, I would be down right now by $337,110.”

Joe Grzeika reminded her that supervisors typically don’t adjust the local amount. Brown stated, “If you leave your local match in there, I would still be down $225,318, that’s just with state funds.”

Grzeika said they knew of division staff vacancies, including for senior administrative staff.
“And you’re not filling them, so that money is still in your budget, there’s hundreds of thousands,” Grzeika said.

RAISES SOONER THAN JANUARY?
Supervisors had also heard of the School Board’s desire to grant 2 percent raises sooner, rather than waiting until Jan. 1, when they are budgeted to begin at mid-year, as for county employees, if the budget permits.

Supervisors are still stinging from the School Board’s doubling bonuses to $1,000 last summer for school employees, after agreeing the division would match the $500 bonus amounts that county employees received on June 30.

The one-time bonuses were paid from unexpended funds the School Board had left over at the end of the year.

PARKER URGING RAISES
The notion to start the pay raises sooner was reiterated by Board Chairman Renee Parker at a School Board meeting Sept. 12, immediately following Brown’s bad news about a potential state funding shortfall due to lower enrollment. 

Parker, who is going off the School Board in the end of December since she’s running for election to the Board of Supervisors, had said at that meeting she had intended to talk about initiating the raises in September, until she heard about the enrollment issue. She said she hoped they could initiate the raises in November.

The only comments from School Board members came from Dennis Paulsen, who urged caution.

“I really think we need to be prudent here and take a hard look before we do anything,” he said.

Parker responded: “It’s something we’ve thought about and we want to see the pay raise sooner rather than later for our teachers and our division.” She added, “I just wanted to make sure that the division knows and public knows that we are still intent on doing as much as we can to get those raises in place as fast as we can.”

BROWN CHOOSES WORDS
But that’s not what Brown said last week, when asked by supervisors. She chose her words carefully. John LoBuglio asked about authorizing the pay raise sooner. Brown said, “I’m not sure I understand.”

“What is in that budget is a 2 percent starting in January,” Brown said. “That’s what’s in that budget. Now, the School Board was hoping through ‘breakage’ money that they would be able to give that 2 percent before the January date, but that is not in the budget.”

“Breakage” is the surplus money in a budget after hiring new employees at lower salaries than those who resigned the previous year.

Grzeika said, “There’s no intent to do that? Your intent is 2 percent in January?” Brown repeated, “That is what is in the budget.” Grzeika persisted, asking, “Is that your intent right now?” Brown responded, saying firmly, “At this point, yes, sir.”

Lynn Pardee left her seat in the audience and took the podium from Brown to bolster the plea for more money from the county. She spoke of the need to house the early childhood program somewhere, saying they couldn’t use the former middle school building because they leased it to the library.

Grzeika inquired, “The whole middle school? The entire old middle school is going to be library?”

Pardee said, “A good portion of it, yes. And the Parks & Recreation uses a good portion of it. I guess the point I’m trying to make — I realize you want this money to come out of the current school budget and you’re upset over the raise that our teachers are getting. But these are children and they shouldn’t have to live in such squalor.”

UNUSED CLASSROOMS
There are at least 21 classrooms at the former middle school building not in use, excluding the sections leased to the library and used by Parks & Recreation. In addition, the former Vo-Tech building adjacent to the high school is not in use.

Grzeika explained to Pardee that the new King George Elementary School was built in 1997 to replace old KGES. Pardee responded, saying, “And it’s overflowing. There are five trailers there. These buildings are all full. This county has doubled …” 

Sisson stopped her, saying, “And enrollment is down. I’m not debating this. I’m not debating the need. My point was, the budget is there to absorb it and I’m not willing to make a motion to do anything different tonight.” 

Phyllis Cook

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