Highland Superintendent William Crawford Braces For School Budget Cuts
Monterey, Va – The Highland County School System will have to reduce its budget by about 6% for the coming year. This reduction is necessary because of cuts in state funding to the school due to declining enrollment. Superintendent of schools Dr. Will Crawford talks about next year’s school budget.
“Our overall request this year is 3.9 million; last year the overall request was 4.2 million,” says Dr. Crawford. “So we’re down $235,179.00 in terms of our request. That’s a 6% decrease over what we asked for last year. And of course most of that decrease is due to a loss of student enrollment; the projected enrollment for this year was 213 students, the highest that our enrollment has been this year is 202 students.”
Dr. Crawford discusses how declining student numbers dictated the amount of the budget reduction.
“But next year’s budget we’re predicting and projecting that we will have about 190 students, that’s an eight or nine student decrease,” he says. “And with our decrease in teaching staff, we did decrease three teaching positions and two assistant positions for a total of $235,179.00; that’s where most of that money came from was the decrease in positions.”
“That really in a nutshell is the biggest difference in the budget, was the reduction in the staff. And really the reduction in the staff was mostly motivated by a reduction in student enrollment.”
It appears that there will be at least a one year reprieve from further declines in enrollment coming up because of a larger than average number of children entering the kindergarten class this fall.
“But the real key again, is getting the little ones in and it just so happens this year we have 18 slots in preschool,” says Dr. Crawford. “Everyone’s filled [and] we have four kids on the waiting list. Not all of those kids are eligible to come to Kindergarten, but we know we have 15 that we think are going to be coming to Kindergarten and we’re so happy about that.”
The school system was hoping for some relief from future budget problems from the state Department of Education through an exception in the state school funding formula for schools with very small enrollments. Instead, the officials in Richmond suggested that the schools consider several options including virtual instruction, becoming a charter school, and agreements with area colleges. None of these alternatives appears to provide any significant relief for the school’s future budget problems. However, an agreement with James Madison University may expand educational opportunities for both students and community members.
“We have looked at talking with JMU about some partnerships and we think we’re going to sign a formal agreement with them pretty soon,” he says. “They are donating a video room and board, and so, we’ll see how that turns out. And they’re going to offer community members the opportunity to finish degrees, to take courses that are offered on campus through this video conferencing arrangement.”
Despite new opportunities, the Highland schools are likely to experience further declines in enrollment in future years that will result in additional reduction in state funding leading to budget cuts and more staff reductions. One issue for the school system is the relatively large number of children in Highland County who are home schooled. One in five children are currently home schooled, which has made it more difficult to keep school enrollment up.
The next meeting of the Highland County School Board is scheduled for Monday, May 7, at 7 pm in the High School library.