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Extra state money for schools sparks debate

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- A small windfall in state money to the Shenandoah County School Board may not mean extra money for next fiscal year.

When the Board of Supervisors heard at their meeting Tuesday the school system would receive $9,825 in additional state revenue, at least one member suggested they deduct that figure from the amount of local revenue appropriated to education in the fiscal 2013 budget.

The extra state money would go into the school' operating budget for the next fiscal cycle, according to county Budget Manager Garland Miller.

"I think they didn't even know it was coming until Friday," Miller said.

The $9,825 would go to fund an early intervention reading program, according to Miller. Supervisor David E. Ferguson asked whether the school system already had the program in the budget. Garland noted that the program is included in the budget.

"Then if they do, then the funds should be covered under the budget we approved for them," Ferguson said. "So now that there's additional funds from the state, why wouldn't we take those funds and just reduce the amount of funds ... local monies that we're going to allocate to the school system by $9,825, versus increasing theirs by $9,825?"

Miller told Ferguson he couldn't answer the question and noted again the county only just received word of the additional revenue Tuesday. Miller explained he wanted to bring the information before the board as it concerned appropriations which came up for discussion on the agenda.

The news came as Miller also explained to the board that it must hold a public session on a resolution required to appropriate the funds already outlined in the county's fiscal 2013 budget, which board has since approved.

Even supervisors expressed confusion over the process of approving both a budget, which Garland explained covered the total spending for Shenandoah, as well as separate a resolution authorizing where they would spend the money. County Attorney J. Jay Litten told the board it would have only one action to take next year when they approve a budget.

"I would rather take it to public hearing to reduce the local portion of the budget by $9,000 versus increasing the school budget by $9,000," Ferguson said, as Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli shook her head saying "no" several times.

"I don't think this is a step you have formally done before," Litten said, referring to the second ordinance. "It's always been more or less implied in the adoption of the budget that you are also appropriating the funds."

The attorney said he and County Administrator Douglas C. Walker felt the board needed to formally appropriate the funds.

"In a perfect world, which we'll try to move a little closer to next year, you'll see it all in one ordinance -- the adoption of a budget and the appropriation of this year," Litten said. "This year, as we transition toward that, you're seeing two separate ordinances."

Miller told the board the ordinance on the appropriation included the $9,825 as discussed.

"So if we've already approved the budget with the numbers and then you back and alter by $9,800, whether it goes up or goes down, how do you do that," asked board Chairman Conrad A. Helsely. "We went through the public hearing."

Miller explained the board didn't need to take action on the item but the county would have to advertise the matter of the budget appropriation for a public hearing. Litten told the board the matter wasn't technically a public hearing even though the county will be advertising it by way of an advertised public notice because it involves an ordinance the supervisors could adopt.

The board's practice has been to hold public hearings at its night meeting on the fourth Tuesday of each month. However, the board scheduled the public hearing on the second budget-related ordinance for their monthly morning meeting at 9 a.m. June 12.

1 Comment

So Mr. Ferguson is worried about $9000 in a $20+million appropriation...I just don't know what to say about that...

Heaven forbid the schools get an extra .01% of money. We really need the money back so we can bring the tax rate from 0.51 back down to 0.509.

Is he even listening to himself?

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