Highland County Board of Supervisors Receive FY 2020 School Budget
The Highland County Board of Supervisors are actively going through the 2020 budget process, and on Tuesday, April 2, 2019 at their regular meeting, they received the Proposed Fiscal Year 2020 School Budget. From the numbers’ standpoint, expenditures at the school have increased $100,710.01 from the previous budget. Revenues have increased $2,452. The total school budget for 2019-2020 comes out to $4,505,824.00. The county’s total share is asked to be $2,516,966.00, which is an increase of $98,258.01 from last year’s budget.
Superintendent of Highland County Public Schools, Dr. Thomas Schott, gave a passionate speech about the reasons behind the increased ask. He explained that there have been long discussions on the school budget already up to this point, with data validation of any increase. He said, “This is something that’s already been through one stage of examination, and like I said, I am m – more than happy to cut anything we have, long as there’s a logical reason to cut, and because we don’t have enough money or we don’t have – that is not a logical reason to cut.” He urged the Board to not look at the costs as a business expense, but rather as an investment to move the school forward. Later, he said, “When you look at it, I mean, the school is not just a school building. It’s the community building. I mean, we have every organization that you can probably think of in Highland uses the building, and there’s no – there’s no cost, and I don’t believe there should be a cost for them – for them to use the building. The school and the county absorbs the heat, the electricity – that all comes out of my budget piece of it when we’re looking at this.”
Dr. Schott broke down the justification in increases in to three categories. The salary and insurance category includes the most money in the overall increase at just over $51,400. Board member Harry Sponaugle questioned how much insurance increased. Dr. Schott said it jumped 9% for a total of around $15,000 to $16,000. He mentioned, “The thing about insurance, it continues to go up. We have not reached the threshold where I think that it’s fair to even ask the teachers to pay any of their own.” Mr. Sponaugle mentioned that county employees pay 20% of their insurance, even with being underpaid. Dr. Schott responded that it’s a value-add to have 100% of insurance for teachers paid for. He stated, “I think that as – as one of the rights as a teacher, especially here in Highland, that we need to pay 100% of their insurance and continue to increase their salaries to where we get cl – even close to the state level, which we’re not.”
Several people associated with the school were in attendance to show support. Elementary School Principal, Teresa Blum, noted that the school is not the only entity that asks for increases or needs them, so if there is a tax increase, it’s not always the school’s fault.
Later, during the open public comment period, resident Iris Hooke presented a counter view. She said, “I don’t think the teachers deserve to continue getting salary increases until the school starts graduating students with better education.” Ms. Hooke provided the Board a page full of examples of poor education that she believes the students are receiving. She stated a failure to provide a good education is not just a Highland problem but a national one. She also said, “Any employee whose salary is over $35,000 gross should pay their own health and life insurance.”
Allegheny Mountain Radio will have more news from the Board meeting in an upcoming story.