Highland County Supervisors And School Board Struggling To Balance 2011-2012 School Budget

Monterey, VA – The Highland County Board of Supervisors and the School Board are struggling to come to grips with next year’s school budget. At the public hearing on the county budget held earlier this week, School Superintendent Percy Nowlin, summarized the difficulties facing the school this year.

“We’ve been devastated by a $99,000.00 cut in state funds and a $61,000.00 increase in retirement payments paid back to the state” says Nowlin. “Teachers have been without a raise going on four years. They are asking for just two steps [in raises].”

He goes on to discuss the major issues facing the school in the future.

“We have hope for a better financial picture” he says, “the State Superintendent is coming in thanks to [Board of Supervisors Chairman] Mr. Sullenberger, to see exactly how small we are and why the composite index is not working. It’s fairly simple, we have fixed costs, the teachers; the composite index isn’t providing the fixed costs necessary to meet accreditation and the state standards of quality.”

The School Board is asking the Supervisors to balance the school budget for next year with money that will be returned to the county this coming June 30. However, that is a short-term solution and will not address the future funding problems for the school.

Although the school has reduced its budget by over $400 thousand dollars over the past 3 years that has not been enough to keep up with the drop in state funding and the increase in unfunded mandates from the state. The state superintendent of schools is coming to Monterey May 10th to meet with the School Board and the Board of Supervisors to discuss options for improving the school’s financial situation. Supervisor Rexrode expressed his concerns over the problem of the school budget.

“You’re all looking at the budget for one year, we gotta look at it down the road” says Rexrode, “or I do, that’s what I’m looking at. This next budget, we’re going to take several hundred thousand dollars out to balance the budget even if we cut you sixty-some thousand. The next year, what’ll we do? I heard the comment made that you’re down to the minimum number of employees you can have.”

The school is now down to 30 teachers and it’s the opinion of Superintendent Nowlin that any further reductions will make it impossible for the school to meet state requirements for standards of quality. Supervisor Rexrode goes on to make some grim predictions for the school.

“There should be a way to keep a school system in Highland County” he says. “But we can’t keep it if the school cannot reduce costs, and I mean majorly reduce it. If things don’t drastically change, if they don’t let the school system reduce employees, the cost don’t [sic] come down, I think I’m going to have to change my whole attitude about the school system and say can the county taxpayers afford it? You go six-seven more years out, you’ll be paying $40,000.00 a student.”

The Highland County Board of Supervisors will meet to adopt the county budget on Tuesday, April 26, at 7:30 PM in the Modular Conference Center in Monterey.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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