Essex County Public Schools (ECPS) is going to need over a million additional dollars from the county to balance the budget, said schools’ Superintendent Dr. Gail Pope to supervisors last Tuesday.
On March 26, Dr. Pope requested an additional $1,258,178 from the county to match the school’s budget request of $16,479,406 for the 2013-2014 school year compared to $15,668,538 which was the 2012-13 school budget line item.
In order to meet their needs, school officials tallied the county’s total funding at $7,109,691, with the balance of the requested budget coming from state and federal funds.
But Dr. Pope noted their baseline budget fell to $15,221,228 due to a $222,118 cut in Average Daily Membership (ADM) state funding because of an anticipated drop in attendance, a decrease in local funding of $97,856 due to debt service for capital projects and a loss of $361,811 in federal funding for Title I school improvement plans.
On Feb. 14, Dr. Pope told the board that the loss in federal funds was due to Tappahannock Elementary and Essex Intermediate coming out of school improvement.
“When the federal government comes and says, ‘We’re the federal government and we’re here to help, “ you should run in the opposite direction,” said Dr. Pope, sparking some laughter on both the board and in the audience.
In bringing the budget to a baseline of $15.2 million, Dr. Pope and the school board also included $76,388 in an anticipated sales tax increase, $58,275 in carryover federal funds, $38,655 in additional summer school funding and $75,476 from state to provide for a 2 percent salary increase to SOQ-funded positions in the schools.
“This is what the governor agreed to do and this is only SOQ-funded positions,” Dr. Pope noted. “The state did not propose a 2 percent salary increase for all employees.”
The school board also added $252,705 to meet an anticipated 10 percent increase in health insurance premiums and a 2 percent pay raise for all employees.
Aside from employee benefits, the school board also factored in $666,171 to maintain and enhance the school divisions’ instructional program, as well as $692,000 to improve school operations.
Following Dr. Pope’s presentation, Greater Tappahannock Supervisor and Chair Stanley Langford and County Administrator Reese Peck said county projections displayed an appropriation of $7,606,653 to the schools.
But Dr. Pope’s presentation showed that the county contributed a total $7,791,196 to the school board, including principal and interest for capital projects.
Dr. Pope said she had worked with information detailing what the school division had paid the year before.
“The schedule that we had for this year for the debt map, we made the assumption that that was what it was going to be,” she said, adding that she would review the numbers to account for the difference.
Langford assured Pope of the supervisors’ support for education.
“We always have since I’ve been on this board,” he said.
Dr. Pope said their support had been “well-noted,” adding that the Commonwealth of Virginia required her to present a needs-based budget.
“[It does not say] what you’re going to get, but what the school division needs,” Dr. Pope said. “At least [the county and schools] have the information out there that [they] can work on together for the years to come.”
For more information and summation of numbers on ECPS’ needs-based budget, Dr. Pope’s presentation can be found online at http://www.essex.k12.va.us/news.