After a long process that involved several budget workshops and meetings through the last few months, the Pulaski County School Board finally passed its much-anticipated budget for next school year.
The vote to pass the proposed budget was unanimous among all five school board members – Chairman Paul Phillips, Jeff Bain, Pamela Chitwood, Dr. Rodell Cruise, and Dr. John Wenrich.
“It has been a … lengthy process,” said interim Superintendent Thomas Brewster. “We have had five budget workshops, numerous board meetings where the budget has been the topic at every board meeting. We’ve had numerous opportunities to hear public comment. Certainly, we are pleased to see the additional revenue from the county, which allows us to do some things that we weren’t going to be able to do without that revenue.”
Included within the budget are 62 job cuts – 27 of which will be teaching jobs throughout the different school levels (elementary, middle, and high) and 16 will be para-educator positions. An assistant superintendent position will also be eliminated at the school board office.
“We realize although we’ve been able to minimize the impact on employees, we also recognize that we are going to lose some very good teachers, employees, and staff members,” Brewster said. “We are happy that the budget is finalized. However, we are going to continue to have to make some very difficult decisions.”
A four-cent real estate tax increase by the county helped to reduce job losses. However, several cuts still had to be made. Special allocations for art, music, PE, and media will be reduced by 25 percent.
Elimination of the middle school resource officers will be necessary, as will the elimination of the Fairlawn Cooperative Transition Program.
Among the many ideas that were discussed, but will not occur, are the consolidation of both middle schools, as well as salary reductions for teachers and the closing of the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School.
The board voted to extend the current contract of the Governor’s School by two more years, despite opposition from board member Cruise.
Cruise argued that the $3,650 spent for every student at the school and the estimated $131,400 in tuition could go towards the high school and programs could be expanded there, even for gifted students who are not currently enrolled at the Governor’s School.
However, the Governor’s School did not completely avoid the budget cuts. The school will see a reduction of six seats for juniors next year.
“The contract requires we commit to the Governor’s School for two years in a row,” Brewster said. “So what we did was commit to 16 seats for this year and 16 seats next year. That formal agreement will pretty much set the number of students who attend the Governor’s School over the next two years, unless there is something catastrophic, which isn’t foreseeable.”
After all of these changes, the Pulaski County School System’s deficit is completely gone and it is left with a $2,010 surplus in their budget for next year.
Twelve teachers, most of whom represented the Career & Technical Education fields at PCHS, showed up at the beginning of the meeting to voice their opinions on the changing of the Employee Extended Work Plan. The plan helps compensate teachers who go above the normal time frame of hours.
Support was also voiced for the Governor’s School by three parents, including one parent who stated, “I would not have moved to Pulaski County if not for the Governor’s School.”
They went on to say that their child was better prepared for college and able to attend the college of their choice because of the school.