- Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 16:52
- Published on Wednesday, 18 March 2009 16:52
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Federal economic recovery act fills the void
The Westmoreland County School Board met Monday and approved the upcoming school year’s $17.7 million budget. The dire set of cost reduction measures envisioned earlier to offset major reductions in state support became unnecessary when a million in federal economic recovery funding was allocated to support Westmoreland schools.
During the first weeks of 2008 it was understood that Virginia’s contribution to the Westmoreland school division would be reduced as much as $420,000. Revenue associated with sales tax collections in Westmoreland County had plummeted and reductions in teacher salaries became a serious consideration. An across the board pay reduction of 1 percent would have generated $400,000.
There were other cost saving measures that were seriously contemplated, including incentives for older teachers to retire, virtual elimination of pre-school programs, field trips and after school activities and major reductions in administrative staff that would have included the division’s assistant principal positions.
“These will be some of the toughest decisions we ever had to make,” Division Superintendent Elaine Fogliani said of the austere measures that were being entertained earlier this year.
By February 23 it had become apparent that a one-time infusion of a million dollars from the federal government would allow teacher salaries to be funded at current levels and crucial programs to be continued through the 2009-12010 academic year.
Earlier projections of the county school division’s share of the federal government’s economic recovery contribution were sharply lower than the level of federal relief reported on March 16.
On February 23 Superintendent Fogliani struggled to balance a budget that had an identified $78,000 shortfall. At that time the federal economic recovery package was expected to cut the previously identified division deficit by $535,432. Westmoreland’s contribution to county schools would rise as much as $193,084, bringing the county’s share of support to a high of $7,457,758.
This Monday the final draft of the budget adopted by the Westmoreland School Board required a local funding increase in the amount of $129,219.
New in 2009-2010 is a half million dollars from the federal government to increase support for special education and the division’s Title 1 programs that address students with special needs and children from low income families.
In addition to consolidating bus routes, as many as two of the school division’s central office positions have been eliminated from the budget the 2009-2010 school budget. More cuts could follow when the budget goes to the Westmoreland Supervisors for that Board’s consideration.
On Monday Dr. Fogliani reiterated what she had stated previously concerning the difficulty of preparing a budget during such an economically challenged period. She delivered a warning that things may be more difficult next year.
The federal government’s economic recovery allocation to support Westmoreland schools was a one-time occurrence, an emergency action that was taken by Congress as part of the national effort to prevent a massive economic catastrophe.
Aware that sales tax revenues have already dropped in Westmoreland County by a reported $403,065, Fogliani shared concerns that next year’s school division budget may be even more difficult to prepare.
“We don’t know what will happen next year,” Dr. Fogliani told the people who gathered for the March 16 Westmoreland School Board meeting.