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Warren County schools can spend surplus

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Warren County leaders say the school system can spend money it saved a couple of years ago on one-time needs.

The Board of Supervisors voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve the School Board's request to re-appropriate $1.25 million in unused funds originally included in the fiscal 2013 budget. The School Board must ask the supervisors' permission to use money it did not spend in a given budget period.

The School Board plans to spend the money on the following: $13,000 for materials for the Blue Ridge Technical Center; $204,968 for information technology networking equipment; $200,000 for two replacement buses and a $26,000 bus lift in the garage; $19,000 for replacement mowers; and $3,000 on a new identification badge system for employees. The money for new and expanded programs at the Blue Ridge Technical Center would be appropriated in the current fiscal budget. The remaining money would be added to the fiscal 2015 budget.

The School Board plans to use $624,000 of the unspent money to boost the division's health care fund. Doing so would offset health care costs until the division can increase the employer contribution. Under its proposal, employees would receive a subsidy of $52 per month in fiscal 2015, $35 per month in fiscal 2016 and $17 per month in fiscal 2017.

Superintendent Pamela McInnis told supervisors that the school division would be willing to work with and include the county administration in the development of its new identification badge system.

Supervisors Chairman Daniel Murray Jr. asked how the county schools compared to other jurisdictions in terms of the division's contribution to employee health insurance costs. Director of Finance Robert Ballentine said the county does not compare "very favorably" with other divisions in the current fiscal year. The total benefit from the employer is $400 per month per employee. The benefits provided by most other counties in the region exceed $500 per month, Ballentine said. The fiscal 2015 budget as recently approved provides an additional $500,000 to the school division earmarked for health care contributions. The funds allow the division to increase its contribution to $483 per month.

"So that would make us a lot more competitive," Ballentine said. "Maybe [we're] not quite there yet but again [in] a process of over several years, we're hoping we can get more competitive on that and that's a big step in the right direction, I believe."

McInnis thanked supervisors for their support and noted that the board has been generous to return any money to the division that it did not spend in a given year. McInnis added that the board can see that the division tries to spend the money on one-time needs rather than use the funds in its operating budget.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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