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Title I money frozen without W’md supervisors’ approval

County’s action adds urgency to schools’ call for change

Editor’s note: The weather prevented our reporter from attending this meeting. The story is written from the Board of Supervisor’s agenda and comments from Westmoreland residents who attended the session.

The Westmoreland supervisors met this Monday night. Although the room was packed, there were many who were unable to attend as the result of snow and ice.
The agenda included a not unusual school division action item. School Superintendent Elaine Fogliani had needed the supervisors’ approval of a $165,879.90 addition to the School Board’s instructional category. This was Title 1 federal money that had recently become available to the county schools. Because Fogliani could not be present and no one else had been delegated to represent the rather routine request, the Westmoreland Supervisors opted not to act.
For the same reason the supervisors decided to take no action on a resolution the School Board asked the supervisors to adopt in order to avoid the previously described scenario. When no one from the school division was present to represent that matter, the supervisors again refused to act.

Later that night Rosemary Mahan, the county’s at-large School Board member, arrived in the A.T. Johnson meeting room and discovered that the supervisors had declined to act on either of the school division action items.
At the earliest opportunity Mahan expressed her consternation. Prompt action was needed on the first matter. The federal revenue had been received but could not be spent until the supervisors acted.
Mahan immediately recognized the connection between the supervisors’ inaction and the need to gain approval of what the accompanying resolution described as lump sum funding. The supervisors agreed to address both action items at a subsequent meeting. They will reconvene at 7 p.m. on Feb. 23 in A.T. Johnson auditorium.
The resolution awaiting Board of Supervisors action and approved by the School Board on Jan. 25 notes that the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors appropriates categorically funds to the Westmoreland County Public Schools and the supervisors appropriate “the minimum required local effort in those areas of the budget that qualify for meeting this legal requirement.”
“In FY2008-2009,” the proposed resolution comments, “the General Assembly required that the Virginia Department of Education collect information from local school divisions that assured that the required local effort was spent in each fiscal year and that the locality provided matching funds for each incentive grant in which the school division participates.”
“This,” the resolution then advises, “creates a budget management situation where monies need to be spent to zero in each required local effort category or the school division will not have met the required local effort.
“If the Westmoreland County Public Schools do not spend the required local effort and account for the matching funds, state funds will need to be returned to the state.
“In 2008-2009, the Westmoreland County Schools had to seek special technical assistance form the Virginia Department of Education so that funds would not have to be returned. The Virginia Department of Education outlined solutions for addressing this situation, the most critical being a lump sum appropriation from the Board of Supervisors.”
“If,” the offered text continues, “the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors does not appropriate the FY2009-10 funds in a lump sum, it is the opinion of the Virginia Department of Education budget officials, the superintendent and the budget manager that the school division will be required to return funds to the state.
“Current categorical appropriation lacks the flexibility that the superintendent and School Board need to move funds from one category to another in a timely way to assure that the required local effort is spent and that the school division will not be required to return funds to the state.
“Now, therefore, the Westmoreland County School Board requests that the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors approve lump sum funding for FY 2009-10 and for subsequent years.”

Betsy Ficklin
Staff reporter

 

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