Warren County Public Schools to have special meeting on budget adjustments

FRONT ROYAL — The Warren County Public Schools Board is set to have a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss adjustments to the school budget.

During a work session on Wednesday,  Superintendent Greg Drescher said that the Warren County Board of Supervisors is set to provide enough money for the school district to increase teacher salaries by 1 percent.

Drescher said that he hoped that he and the district staff would be able to make changes to the budget by Wednesday’s meeting that would allow the district to increase salaries by 2 percent instead.

Even if the Warren County School Board does pass its budget next week, there will still likely be considerable uncertainty surrounding the district’s funding because the Virginia General Assembly has yet to pass a budget. Robert Ballentine, director of finance for Warren County Public Schools, said that the district could theoretically pass a budget without official word on state funding levels.

“Some years ago, when we did that, there was a footnote put on contracts and it has stayed on there,” Ballentine said. “All of our contracts state that basically, it’s subject to funding.”

But that comes with some risk, he added.

“If we anticipated what the state budget is going to be and it was significantly less and we’ve made all of these commitments based on it, we’d have to go back and adjust those commitments, whether it be for contracts for employees or other things,” Ballentine said.

In a more typical year, the Virginia General Assembly would have passed its budget by this time in the year.

But the Senate and the House, both of which have narrow Republican majorities, have sparred over whether or not Virginia will expand Medicaid.

On Tuesday, the House of Delegates passed a budget that would expand Medicaid to people whose incomes are slightly higher than federal poverty guidelines, the second time the House has voted to expand Medicaid this session. But the first time the House of Delegates passed its budget, the Senate rejected any expansion of Medicaid.

Even though the budget battle has focused on health care, and not education spending, Ballentine said that Warren County schools could be affected by the current budget debate.

“My understanding is that if [Medicaid expansion is] not part of [the budget], then that may adversely affect the entire budget and then that can [make Warren County Public Schools] have to look elsewhere in the budget and continue to make adjustments,” Ballentine said.