Letter to the Editor: CIP funding has not kept pace with school needs

Editor:

In her Letter to the Editor dated March 15, Supervisor Cindy Bailey provides her recollection of annual funding for the Shenandoah County Public Schools. Funding has been anything but a “blank check” since the appropriation to schools has not met operational or capital needs. Given insufficient funding, no apology is necessary for having as a priority that our students have licensed, high-quality teachers. We are, after all, a public school division charged with educating the children of Shenandoah County in suitable, well-maintained facilities.

Despite Ms. Bailey’s claims, a School Board agenda item (Feb. 9, 2006) references Capital Improvement Plan funds for playground fencing, gym door replacement, and a boiler replacement. The meeting minutes state “During old business, discussion was conducted concerning the CIP Plan. … A discussion was held concerning another CIP Committee issue, improvements to the central campus track/field.”

To state that the school division has not engaged in long-term capital planning is simply untrue. While it is unproductive to engage in back-and-forth fact checking, it is important that unsubstantiated claims be challenged and the facts are these – appropriations for capital projects since at least 2008-09 (FY09) have not kept pace with the school division’s capital needs, ranging in underfunding of CIP of over $3.3 million for the current year and over $2 million each of the last three years for operations.

In fact, the CIP funding for the past nine years has come, in part, from the School Division’s operational savings – funds that were appropriated but not spent. From 2010-11 through 2013-14 operational savings made up the entire CIP appropriation. In most communities, such savings are indicative of good stewardship of public funds, albeit frugal stewardship given the very tight margin in which the school division operates. If Ms. Bailey is waiting for a thank you, then she is indeed owed one for serving on a board that reallocated the operational savings to much-needed capital improvements.

Mark A. Johnston, Ph.D.,
Superintendent, Shenandoah County Public Schools