Non-resident students are contributing to a revenue boost that will benefit not only Richmond County schools, but the county taxpayers as well, Superintendent Greg Smith said Friday.
For the past two years, heated debate surfaced among local citizens over whether or not non-resident students—students who attend Richmond County schools but live outside the county—should pay a tuition fee. Following a public input session where a majority of people in attendance voiced their opposition to tuition, the Richmond County School Board voted in July of last year to adopt a non-resident student policy without making students pay to attend.
This school year, student attendance for Richmond County schools, or Average Daily Membership, jumped from 1158 to as high as 1237 before settling down to 1215, bringing enrollment up to where it was three years ago. School officials have said that the higher the ADM, the greater the size of state funds to the schools.
Smith said that the non-resident population, which the schools claimed to be 57 last school year, had risen to approximately 110—roughly 9 percent of all Richmond County students.
It was an increase that, according to Smith, will have generated roughly $280,000 to $300,000 in state-based revenue by the end of the school year that is not only to help fund school projects, but to also be used by the county itself.
State funding has increased by at least $266,000 over $6,686,065 due to the rise in ADM. For the end of the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the school board requested that a carryover account be created for Richmond County Public Schools’ fund balance.
The school division plans to use 70 percent of that fund balance for expenses related to construction, transportation and repairing the drain line that runs from the edge of school property on Walnut Street to the baseball fields.
The remainder of that balance, Smith said, is to be earmarked for county use.
In addition to the carryover account, the schools have requested an operating budget of $13,266,176, up half-a-million dollars from the 2013-2014 budget due primarily to a massive increase in state funding for Basic Aid as well as the Virginia Retirement System Fund. The schools are requesting $5,396,230 in the local contribution—the same amount that they had requested from the county last year.
Increased expenditures for this upcoming school year as proposed include $130,047 in instruction due primarily to the required Commissioned Officer JROTC position, increased VRS and health insurance costs and salary improvements; $144,788 in health and administration for the addition of a student services position and paying $60,000 for the county portion of health insurance; and $233,451 in maintenance and facilities due mainly to additional costs associated with utilities for part of the year for the new buildings.
Smith said that the school division’s goal is to keep the total student population below 10 percent; he added that the schools have had to turn away a number of students looking to attend Richmond County schools from outside the county. He noted that they were receiving applications from parents and families for their students to attend RCPS on a daily basis.
“Parents want to send students to high-quality school system,” said Smith. “I think that is a credit to the school system, the school board and the teachers.”
Questions that school staff asks the families and parents, according to Smith, include whether or not they live in one of the traditional border areas such as Lyells Corner, if they own property in Richmond County, if they work within the county and/or if they work for the county or school system.
Based on numbers provided by Smith, 53 of the 110 non-resident students live in Westmoreland County, 35 in Northumberland, 21 are from Essex and one student lives in Lancaster County.