Highland School Board Struggling To Balance Budget In Light Of State Funding Cuts
Monterey, Va – The Highland County School Board held its public hearing on next year’s budget earlier this week on Monday evening. The school system is facing both state cuts and increased benefit costs this year. Board Chairman Kirk Billingsley summarizes some of the budget issues facing the school system.
“The funding problem is the state funding” says Billingsley. “This is where we were 2009 through 2012: In 2009 the state funded a little over 2 million dollars. This year it’s a $1,465,000.00 is the projected amount that the state will be funding us. Now that’s a $550,000.00 decrease to and that’s tough to make up. We just can’t make those kind of cuts into the schools budget.”
The School Board is hoping that the county Board of Supervisors will use some of the money returned to the county the past 2 years to help with the upcoming budget shortfall.
“This next one is money returned to the county” he says. “You can see 2009, $392,000.00; last year was about $244,000.00 that we returned to the County. We’ve tried to save money where we can and when we do have fall savings we do return that back to the county.”
The school system has returned over $600,000.00 dollars to the county the past two years by reducing operating costs. The county has used some of that money for capital improvements at the school, including new insulation. Mr. Billingsley goes on to discuss cost saving ideas the board has looked at this year.
“We looked at combining the K-12 Principal, we looked at combining Principal and Superintendent and the issues you’ve got there is if you make those cuts you lose funding from the state” he says. “If you lose funding from the state from each of those situations that we looked at, you’re probably going to be losing more than we could save.”
Superintendent Percy Nowlin adds his concern about further cuts to the school budget.
“I think we’re down to the bare absolute minimum and any further cuts other than this attrition cut is going to start hurting accreditation and standards of quality” says Nowlin.
Dr. Patricia Wright, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and her staff will visit the Highland County schools on May 10 to meet with members of the School Board and the Board of Supervisors. The School Board members are hoping that this meeting will result in strategies to put the school system on more stable financial footing for future years.