School Board makes case for increasing budget

A Wednesday night joint session between the Frederick County Board of Supervisors and School Board members resulted in some questions but few disagreements so far about the 2016 fiscal year budget, said Steve Edwards, coordinator of policy and communications for schools.

“The supervisors made some general comments on the state not providing their fair share of funding for education,” Edwards said.

“Basically what has happened is that the percentage of money from Virginia’s General Fund that’s been going to k-12 public education has been reduced,” he said.

In 2009, the commonwealth gave schools money equaling 36 percent of its General Fund, but he said districts have been told that number will now be closer to 30 percent.

For seven years, it’s been a gradual decline in funding, as Virginia has seen more funding going to Medicaid and debt service as a result of the national recession, Edwards said.

That reduction in school funding equals about $1.1 billion statewide, he said, or $6.2 million for Frederick County Public Schools.

“And that story’s the same in [other] divisions,” he said. “They’re all feeling increased pressure.”

Less funding from the commonwealth “forces localities to have to step up and attempt to fund those shortfalls,” he said.

“I think based upon those comments [from county supervisors], they recognize the needs of the school division,” Edwards said.

Superintendent David Sovine proposed a $187.3 million budget that includes, among other needs, a $6.3 million salary initiative to help make school salaries more competitive and better recruit and retain high-quality educators. Other areas of concern include technology initiatives and the replacement of older school buses.

He also asked for $1.4 million just to maintain the level of education the district already offers.

“We call that the cost to continue,” Edwards said.

The School Board will hold a work session to discuss the budget on Feb. 3 and will meet to propose its budget at a public hearing at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 in the administration building at 1415 Amherst St., Winchester.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com