Highland Supervisors Adopt Budget
The Highland County Board of Supervisors met last week for a final review and acceptance of the upcoming year’s budget.
During the Supervisor’s regular meeting the previous week, there had been an involved discussion of the budget request submitted by the school system, and a large contingent of school employees, administration and Board were on hand to answer questions. Board chair David Blanchard reported he had already met with Superintendent Dr. Thomas Schott in the time period before the two meetings, and gave Schott the floor to lead the discussion.
Dr. Schott began by clarifying that much of the technology line item which the Board had problems with is dedicated to the upgrading of the wired and wireless infrastructure in the school, and most of that will be paid for by the state’s SOL funding. He also provided data on teacher salaries. Highland ranks 81st out of 132 Virginia counties on average teacher pay, but that number can be deceiving when you factor in most of Highland’s teachers are at the at the higher end of their years. The average pay is $7,500 below state average. Highland ranks 114th in beginning teacher pay, and needs to be competitive with other systems in the area to attract new teachers.
Schott reiterated that the budget was cut as much as possible, and he was proud of it.
Supervisor Kevin Wagner asked if going forward, the school system could set a fixed capital amount, which could be rolled over if unused. This would help future boards be able to fix the overall budget more effectively. He noted Highland was the poorest county in the state from a revenue standpoint, and cannot keep going back to the “well of the taxpayers.” Mr. Blanchard reported that he and Dr. Schott had talked about getting together after this budget cycle to lay such groundwork for the future.
Supervisor Lee Blagg raised the issue of the debt reduction line item of $115,000,saying that originally, this had meant to end after the debt was paid, which it has been, and not become a continuing pool of money to be factored in every year. He acknowledged Dr. Schott was unaware of the history of it in his preparations, and asked that that line item be zeroed out, so it would not be used in the future, and said in his opinion, the Board would likely accept the budget as presented this year if that were done, and Schott agreed.
County administrator Roberta Lambert gave the Board the latest figures after revenue and expense edits. Revenues were $6,819,784 and expenses were $7,288,760, leaving a budget deficit of $468,976. The Board voted to adopt the budget at the current tax rates, making up the deficit from savings and foregoing a tax increase. Public hearings for the general fund budget and the enterprise fund budget, which pays for the county refuse disposal, were set for Thursday, April 23rd at 7:30 pm at the courthouse in Monterey.