By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Pulaski County Board of Supervisors voted Monday night to appropriate just under $12 million to the Pulaski County School System in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
However, that will still leave the school system $261,000 short of its goal of being able to pay for increased employee health insurance costs and Virginia Retirement System changes without employee paychecks being reduced. The supervisors hope Pulaski County School Board will be able to make up the difference through teacher retirements and administrative cuts.
Two members of the school board, Linda Hill of Draper District and Frances Viars of Robinson District, attended the supervisors’ Monday night budget work session.
Massie District Supervisor Andy McCready asked them whether it is possible there will be enough teachers retiring to help make up some of the shortfall.
Hill said some retirements are expected, but the teachers who would be leaving are in positions that would require filling to prevent some elementary classes from having 25 to 30 students.
Even if positions are filled, though, Hill said the persons hired would have a lower salary than the retiring teacher, so there would be some savings. She also noted that there will probably be three cuts in administration. Two have been authorized so far.
“We very much wish we could do a whole lot more for the schools,” McCready said to Hill and Viars. He went on to point out that the only revenue growth the county has seen is in sales – not real estate –taxes.
Hill and Viars said they understand the county’s position.
McCready said the supervisors and school board have both acknowledged “some expenses in the school board budget are out of line,” particularly with regards to administration costs.
“I have high hopes the school board will be able to fix these problems and make some changes,” said McCready. He noted that he has received “earnest promises of changes coming.
“I hope we can support the school board and help them make changes,” he added.
Draper District Supervisor Dean Pratt pointed out the supervisors have provided other assistance to the school system by agreeing to transfer four employees of the Information Technology Department to the county budget. This will result in a savings of about $129,000 to the schools, he said.
The schools also will be able to carry over about $275,000 in anticipated unused funds from the current fiscal year’s budget and the supervisors have agreed to protect the schools from fluctuating energy costs.
County Administrator Peter Huber said the “protection” will enable the school system to lower its contingency budget and allow the supervisors to appropriate additional funds at a later date to cover energy bills in the event costs exceed the amount of funds set aside in the school budget.