Highland County Schools Squeezing Budget To The Bare Minimum
Monterey, VA – In its efforts to balance state cutbacks, the highland school system appears to have emerged from budget negotiations without major losses. The Virginia legislature has made unprecedented cuts to public education this year in its efforts to counter the fall in state revenues caused by the recession. Highland county schools lost over $340,000 of their support from the state. To help counter this reduction, the state has, in effect, borrowed from the Virginia retirement system, and has reduced the amount each school system must contribute to the teacher’s retirement fund.
Highland Schools Superintendent Percy Nowlin says they had to cut over 210 thousand dollars from the school budget, which means no new programs or additions. But it also means no staffing cuts. He says cuts over the last three years have reduced the school budget to the bare minimum required to run a school system. This is a concern particularly for maintaining high school accreditation.
The school system was able to save over $17,000 in administrative costs by getting permission from the state department of education to hire Nowlin as a part-time superintendent. Nowlin says savings have also been found by combining some teaching and guidance positions while cutting back on others. The school has also cut back on transportation costs. But with only six bus drivers currently on staff, he’s reluctant to make any further cuts in that category.
Future plans for saving money at the school involve two basic strategies. The first is to seek grant funding to improve the energy efficiency of the school building, so that fuel costs can be reduced. The second is to lobby the general assembly to change the composite index so that very small school systems, like Highland, will be credited with a minimum number of students to keep state funding at a level that will allow the school to continue to function.
The Highland School Board will hold a public hearing on the budget Monday, March 29th at 7 PM in the high school library.