HCPS Holds Second Open Budget Session to Explore Funding Solutions

On March 27, 2020, Congress set aside approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) Fund. These funds ended last year. That means the Highland County School Board isn’t the only school board in the commonwealth struggling with budgets and funding heading into the 2024-25 school year.


Virginia is also a Dillon rule state. That means localities only have powers vested in them by the state. The Commonwealth is also low-tax and low-service, meaning localities often struggle to fund their needs. In short, Highland is not alone as the school board juggles balancing mandatory assignments with local funding. 


The budget that was voted on by the board on March 25, 2024 to be presented to the Highland County Board of Supervisors includes an 8.5 percent increase, most of which comes from salaries and benefits. Highland has the highest local composite index, which demonstrates a locality’s ability to pay for educating their youth, though yoking through Augusta County helps alleviate some of this stress.


Highland County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Drew Maerz compared the value of yoking when discussing neighboring Bath County:


“They do not have the yoking agreement that we have, so that is an $800,000 bonus the state has allotted us. I’ll be honest, without that, I don’t think we would be here. I don’t know if our county could afford to pay.”


“According to the state, we are much more able to fund our schools than Loudoun County with a mean income in the county of $170,000 per family, and we’re at $56,000 per family. So, when you look at it that way, the state really needs to look at their funding model. And we need to encourage our legislators to look at the funding closely and do what’s best for our students.”


There are some bills in the Virginia legislature to help alleviate the stress put on counties, but none of these will come to fruition before this funding cycle needs to be allocated and secured.


The Highland County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing for budgets on a yet to be determined date after all budgets from county offices are entered. Stay tuned to Allegheny Mountain Radio for more information as it is released.

Story By


Brit Chambers

Brit Chambers is a resident of Highland County, Virginia and a news reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio. She loves living in a small town and relishes the outdoor adventures and community feeling that Highland has to offer. Brit has a background in journalism, marketing, and public relations and spends her free time reading good books, baking sourdough bread, and hiking with her family.

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