May 2, 2017
MARTINSVILLE-Even though the city council gave the same amount of money to Martinsville schools as last year, it won’t be enough to hold off cuts.
For the current year, the school district’s budget stands at $6,437,654. Because of tight finances, city departments were told to anticipate budget cuts for the coming year. Yet the schools requested an extra $380,732, plus another $135,000 they expect to have left over at the end of the current year.
That extra funding is needed due to changes on the state level. The district saw a 1.78 percent spike in the costs for the Virginia Retirement System, as well as 120 students leave the district between last year and this one. Fewer students means less in per pupil funding from the state. Combined, the district needed $657,185 to operate, after budget cuts were factored in.
The city’s original budget proposal for fiscal 2018 reduced the schools’ funding $260,116 to $6,177,538. However, the council voted last week to dip into its reserves to provide the schools level funding of $6,437,654.
But that still doesn’t address the extra funding needs, Talley said, and he warned that more budget cuts will have to come if Martinsville City Council follows through with its plan to give the schools $515,732 less than they requested for the new fiscal year that will start July 1.
Having already made about $765,000 in cuts since the middle of last July, Talley said, “anything we cut now will hurt student (learning) resources and academics.”
“It’s going to be a magician’s trick,” he said, “to get the schools fully accredited with less resources,” which will lead to problems such as larger class sizes.
The more students that are in a class, the less individual attention that the teacher can give students, which can hinder their ability to learn, school division administrators have said.
Talley pointed to school needs and rising costs over which the school division has no control. An example of the latter that he mentioned is the state’s “unfunded mandate” resulting in local school divisions having to contribute more for employees to participate in the Virginia Retirement System. A budget document shows Martinsville’s schools expect to have to spend $200,000 (or 1.78 percent) more toward retirement benefits as well as a retirement health care credit.
“The school system had nothing to do with it,” Talley emphasized.
The schools are facing a roughly $1 million shortfall, according to Talley. Asked to elaborate during a phone interview while he was traveling, he referred to information in a presentation that he made to the city council on April 17. The information shows $995,000 in budget requests by individual schools.
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