Highland County Board of Supervisors Hold Final Work Session For FY 2020 Budget – Part 1


On Monday, April 15, 2019, the Highland County Board of Supervisors held their final budget work session in order to adopt a proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020.  The county is facing a deficit of over $600,000.

After holding several work sessions with different departments since the beginning of April, the last area of focus was revisiting the proposed budget for Highland County Public Schools.  At the April 2, 2019 Supervisors’ Meeting, Superintendent Dr. Tom Schott had presented a budget that asked for an additional $98,258.01 from the county compared to last year.  Dr. Schott was asked to prepare for a reduction in this requested amount, so the three-member School Board held an emergency meeting a few hours before the night’s Supervisors’ Meeting.  The School Board considered the Supervisors proposal to potentially reduce the school budget down by $31,000 to get that increase number closer to $67,000, which is roughly equal to a one cent increase to the county’s real estate tax rate.  Speaking to the Board of Supervisors, Dr. Schott reported, “And again, the budget I presented to you is the trimmed down version.  There is nothing else to cut in the budget.  I mean, we cut something, we lose something.”

Dr. Schott did mention that if the school budget request was reduced, he had a short-term solution.  He could purchase $28,000 worth of items, such as paper, ink and tires, before the end of the fiscal year, thereby eliminating that expense from next year’s budget, but that would reduce the amount of unspent currently allocated funds, which are returned to the school’s capital improvement plan at the end of this year.

Supervisor Harry Sponaugle pressed Dr. Schott on why he and the School Board made no additional cuts to their budget, particularly by questioning a $10,000 fan system in the gym as a necessity.  Dr. Schott said that he has had requests for that fan system since he has been there, and that the fans have been ordered already but are awaiting installation.  Mr. Sponaugle passionately disagreed with Dr. Schott’s next response that the fan system was indeed a necessity, eventually directing comments toward fellow Supervisors David Blanchard and Kevin Wagner.  Dr. Schott said, “Like I said, ‘that’s something that’s a necessity.’”  Mr. Sponaugle responded abruptly, “No – I don’t think that is a necessity.  I wish you and these two gentlemen both had to get out and make your livin’ off of a farm and, uh, run all night, watch a calf die, know that, uh, there goes your profit, and then have to sit in here and tax yourself.”  Mr. Sponaugle raised concern that his message of wanting to get the school budget request down to roughly $67,000, which, again, is that one cent real estate tax rate increase, was not relayed to Dr. Schott by his two fellow supervisors.  Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Wagner commented that the School Board itself is made of three farmers that presented them with such a budget, but Mr. Sponaugle expressed that none of them were full-time farmers.  Kevin Wagner said, “Whether they’re full-time farmers or not, everybody here has had livestock.  All, all – all six members involved have had livestock, and I think we all understand what the nature of it is.”  Mr. Sponaugle responded, “Well, til you do it full-time, you don’t understand.”  Mr. Wagner replied, “And that makes up a significant population in the county, but we still have the bills to pay.”  David Blanchard said, “Whether you’re a full-time farmer, whether you’re a part-time farmer, whether you’re not a farmer at all, this is a budget cycle that, um, what we’re seein’ are a lot of folks, they’re gonna feel it.”  Harry Sponaugle agreed, “Sure.”

Ultimately, no number was cut from the proposed school budget.  In Part 2 of this story, we’ll have more from the Supervisors’ Meeting.

Story By

Chris Swecker

is the Assistant Station Coordinator and a News Reporter for WVLS. He has roots in Highland County going back several generations, and he grew up in Monterey. Since graduating from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts and Design, he has pursued his career at a news station and advertising agency in Virginia, on Microsoft’s campus in the state of Washington, and in both states as sole owner and employee of a video production company. He enjoys exploring life with his wife, Jessa Fowler, traveling, hiking, hunting, gardening, and trying new foods, all while discovering more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He feels blessed to be a small part of this talented AMR team to help give back to the community that has provided him with so much.

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