Highland Supervisors and School Board Hold Joint Meeting
Education and funding of the school system is, by far, the largest line item in the Highland County annual budget. As with all localities, the Board of Supervisors struggles with decreasing state funding and increasing expenses. Last year, during meetings with the School Board and administration, the Supervisors noted it would be helpful if they were provided a roadmap for future capital improvement expenses, to better help them budget and prepare for those needs. In a special joint work session Monday evening, Dr. Thomas Schott, school superintendent, provided the Supervisors with a presentation laying out a draft of this information.
Dr. Schott presented figures to the Board showing projected capital expenditures for the next ten years. The detailed list showed replacement timeline and pricing for everything from kitchen equipment to vehicles to larger building needs, such as roof replacement. He noted several times during the meeting that these costs are based on current pricing, which will likely rise in the future. He also noted the schedule for replacement was based on the projected lifespan of equipment, which is always subject to early failure or breakdown.
At the end of each fiscal year, the school system returns and surplus in spending, which is added to the capital improvement fund. Dr. Schott’s figures showed this would likely be adequate to cover expenditure needs, barring unexpected expense, for the next several years. However, problems arise in 2020-21, when the elementary school roof, which was installed in 1996, is due for replacement, currently priced as a $300,000 expense.
Dr. Schott also presented a potential plan for spreading out the cost of vehicle replacement by entering a lease agreement to purchase a new bus, at a cost of $66,000, instead of buying outright. The lease is essentially a loan to purchase, and interest costs would be factored in, but using this option would spread the expense out over a number of years, and keep such one time expenditures from ballooning the budget on any given year. After a recommendation from the School Board to pursue the leasing option, the Supervisors voted to approve.
The Supervisors expressed their appreciation for the presentation, saying the information would be valuable as they examine the overall budget in coming years and attempt to plan for larger future expenditure needs. Both Boards agreed that this type of meeting was a positive step for cooperation in providing the best possible education for county students.
The Supervisors had no new or old business, and the meeting ended with a closed session for personnel.