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Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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Benson cuts budget draft request by over $500,000

Superintendent Rob Benson this week proposed some cuts to the current working draft budget request of $36,963,780 for 2013-14, resulting in a decrease of over half a million dollars.  

That took place at a meeting on Monday, Feb. 11.
That action took place in the wake of a joint budget meeting last week on Feb. 6 for the School Board with the Board of Supervisors. That joint meeting had been very cordial and there was no criticism from Supervisors of the proposed amounts in the draft division budget request.

That’s because Supervisors were strictly in a ‘receive’ mode, since it’s a little early in their part of the budget process to be involved.

But Benson appears to be able to read between the lines and also brings his experience in school budgeting from his previous position in a massive school system in Atlanta. Besides, it’s traditional in school budgeting to start high and be prepared to cut.

Supervisors are expected to get a glimpse of a proposed budget draft from Travis Quesenberry, county administrator, later this month on Feb. 26.

DELAY ONE OF TWO TEXTBOOK ADOPTIONS
The School Board agreed with Benson’s proposal to not do a double adoption to purchase for two sets of K-12 text books for next year.

Instead, the division will delay the adoption and purchase of Language Arts/English textbooks for 2013-14 until the following year, but plan to go forward with science textbooks for all grade levels.

That change will drop the draft request for textbooks from $770,000 to $247,469.

Benson said that would not precipitate a double-adoption the following year for 2014-15, since the next textbook adoption for Foreign Languages is slated for 2015-16.

COMMUNITY RELATIONS SPECIALIST
Benson also said he was willing to cut one of two a new central office positions.

He had proposed adding a Community Relations Specialist and a Grants Technician at a previous meeting, with salary ranges for each of $36,000 - $50,000 and additional costs for benefits.

There was a lot of discussion by School Board members, with no consensus appearing to be reached.
Benson said that the grant writer would more directly support education, adding that between the two positions, “I think grant-writer is a wiser selection. I’m okay to support the grant position and let go of the other.”

Following a lot of back and forth, Mike Rose appeared to cap the discussion suggesting, “Leave the Community Relations position as low hanging fruit that we can take out later, when we get numbers back from Board of Supervisors.”

RAISES
The draft request contains costs for two-percent raises for all employees. Benson’s previous draft request estimated that cost at $514,860, which may have experienced a small adjustment since.

Benson has said the proposed budget draft request currently includes the cost of raises in the amount requested from the county and not any from the state.
That is expected to change.

Rick Randall noted that the county board is still waiting on firm budget figures from Richmond.
State budgeting is far from over, but it appears certain that the General Assembly will come to some agreement on conflicting budget legislation to provide a portion of revenue to go toward division raises.

ADM
At the joint meeting on Feb. 6, there had been a question raised by Supervisor Joe Grzeika about using a low ADM of 4,089 with an ADM of 4,128 reported in September by the division to the state in the current year.

For 2013-14, the state is projecting the county to have an ADM of 4,193, which could be too high. Benson said he thought the division would probably have at least 4,100 for the 2013-14 ADM.

Grzeika pointed out that if a low ADM is used, the county is pressed to make up the difference for anticipated lower state revenue on that basis.

BUDGET BLOG
Benson has set up a ‘Budget Blog’ which can be accessed from the main page of the school division website, http://www.kgcs.k12.va.us.
Members of the public can view the working draft budget request, along with a slide presentation which highlights various elements of the budget.
Comments and questions are invited to be posted to Benson, who is hosting the blog site.

Phyllis Cook

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