School Board renews effort to get savings

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK — A renewed effort by the Shenandoah County School Board to use unspent money may again hit a wall with supervisors.

Schools Superintendent Jeremy Raley presented a revised proposal to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that outlines the School Board’s plan to spend $672,426 on one-time capital improvement projects. The School Board needs the supervisors’ approval to re-appropriate the money originally intended for the division.

Assistant County Administrator Evan Vass said Friday that supervisors will address the request at their June 24 meeting.

Supervisors made few comments about Raley’s revised request. Chairman David Ferguson told Raley the board has enough information to consider the request.

“These are, in fact, one-time expenditures,” Raley told supervisors. “They are not recurring, operational costs and, based on the comments Mr. Ferguson made earlier today, these are needs. These are not wants.”

The items appear in the division’s “needs-based budget” and in documents listing capital improvement projects, Raley said. The superintendent warned that if not funded the items likely would come up again.

“These needs will not go away,” Raley said.

Supervisors voted 3-3 at their May 13 meeting on a motion to allocate the money to the School Board. The motion died with the tie vote. Supervisors Cindy Bailey, Marsha Shruntz and John R. “Dick” Neese voted against the request. Contacted by email Friday, Bailey reiterated her opposition to giving the money to the School Board.

In a May 30 memo to County Administrator Mary T. Price, Raley states that the “carryover fund balance resulting from prudent fiscal management of the school division’s FY13 budget that resulted in an under-expenditure of $250,162.” The remaining $422,264 in the fund balance comes as a result of the division receiving more revenue than anticipated for the fiscal year, Riley adds.

Big-ticket items in the School Board’s list include:

  • $134,936 to replace “technology devices” division wide
  • $125,000 to replace rooftop climate control units at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School and North Fork Middle School specifically for the offices and libraries
  • $100,000 for instructional resources
  • $65,000 for three mini-vans
  • $60,000 to replace network and wireless infrastructure throughout the system
  • $50,000 for new furniture, carpeting and painting

Raley reminded supervisors that the School Board included the carryover money in its proposed fiscal 2015 budget request as a way to help fund division operations. Supervisors ultimately chose not to include the carryover money in the funding for the school division, Raley said.

Bailey said in an email Friday that the county not only increased the tax rate on real estate by 3 cents to fund the School Board’s fiscal 2015 budget, but also allocated an additional $450,000 for capital improvement projects. The School Board has a schedule for roof replacements and other maintenance needs spread over the next few years, Bailey noted.

At the Tuesday meeting, in response to questions from Bailey, Raley said the division has plans for how to spend the $450,000. The School Board has not finalized the list because “there are so many uncertainties right now” but members plan to focus spending on security upgrades at various facilities, Raley told supervisors.

Bailey contends that the School Board can use the previously approved $450,000 to fund some of the items on the list Raley presented Tuesday. Bailey suggests that Raley eliminate the planned employee raises as included in the fiscal budget and use the money for maintenance. Bailey states that county employees received pay increases for years while the buildings and schools continued to fall in disrepair.

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