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Boards to resolve $500K funding issue

Supervisors, School Board will meet next Tuesday evening

The Westmoreland School Board made good on the intentions it established at a meeting on May 16, packing the supervisors’ June 13 meeting room with supporters of a request for an additional $500,000 of local revenue to support the county school division’s 2011-2012 budget.

The budget the supervisors adopted in late April allocates $8,112,578 in local revenue to support Westmoreland County’s schools. That number represents 61 percent of the approved budget’s general

fund revenue.

After entertaining a series of concerns brought forward by members of the county school division and the support community, the county School Board adopted a resolution on May 16 that dominated this Monday evening’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The May 16 resolution advised of the School Board’s determination “that the [adopted budget’s] adverse impact of personnel cuts on Westmoreland County students’ academic performance is determined to be unacceptably severe.” The measure noted the supervisors’ prior assurances that additional funding would be provided at a later date if some urgent need arose.

Severe impacts to academic performance became the urgent need cited in a resolution asking for additional local funding “in the amount of $498,711.46 to allow for the reinstatement of the following positions in the 2011-2012 School Board Budget; “Middle School Assistant Principal, High School ISS (In School Suspension) Coordinator, Middle School ISS Coordinator, Middle School Family and Consumer Science, Cople Elementary Assistant Principal, Washington District Elementary Assistant Principal, Technology Coordinator, Transportation Supervisor [and] Instructional Assistant.”

The supervisors obliged with adoption of their own motion to convene in joint session with the county School Board in order to discuss the various positions outlined in the May 16 resolution. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21, in A.T. Johnson auditorium and will include evaluation of the most recently developed school division fund balance projections.

The supervisors’ June 13 resolution includes acknowledgement of that board’s “understanding that the current [school division fund balance] estimate is approximately $800,000 for the current fiscal year. Once the current appropriation of the fund balance is subtracted from the actual sum, it appears that $600,000-plus will be available for appropriation” to support the county school division.

“The Board of Supervisors is receptive to discussing these particular issues and considering appropriation of these funds towards the upcoming fiscal year’s budget. We encourage the incoming superintendent to continue working with our financial personnel as [Interim Superintendent James] Cook has done, so that she may be brought up to speed on the budget and perhaps offer some insight to the process.”

The language of the foregoing motion was established prior to this Monday evening’s Board of Supervisors meeting, but the previously conceived meeting timeline was moved forward from the initially conceived August date to next Tuesday evening in order to facilitate the school division’s ability to immediately reinstate the personnel it otherwise would lose.

School Board Chairman Daniel Wallace told the supervisors that any delay in allocating the requested half million dollars would severely hamper the division’s ability to retain or engage competent employees. Wallace wanted the action to occur as quickly as 6 p.m. on June 14.

But Wallace generated some confusion with he suggested that the division’s end-of-the-year fund balance will be as low as $400,000.

County Administrator Norm Risavi and Supervisor Darryl Fisher had met individually with the division’s interim superintendent and finance director in respective attempts to gather the most up to date financial information. It was understood throughout the June 13 discussion that the school division’s June 30, 2011, fund balance cannot be definitively quantified in advance, but optimally accurate numbers will be brought to the table when the two boards gather next Tuesday night.

Teachers, division retirees and private citizens used the June 13 meeting’s public comment segment to reiterate the sentiments aired during the supervisors’ budget hearing. The children were represented as the county’s future but a tight-fisted county government was squandering the future by allowing children to fall through the cracks.

In addition to being accused of wanting to rob the county’s children of their future, the supervisors were faulted for only conducting half of the year’s meetings during evening hours, when working residents are able to attend. One man told residents who filled the June 13 meeting room that as few as six or seven private citizens were present for the most recent daytime meeting.

Other lively moments occurred when multiple individuals called for consolidation of the Colonial Beach and county schools. Applause was not unusual when forceful sentiments were aired.

 

Betsy Ficklin

 

 

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