School funds increased

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    Patrick school officials learned Thursday the county’s contribution for FY 2017-18 will exceed the amount initially approved.

    Schools Superintendent William Sroufe told school board members that supervisors agreed to increase the local contribution.

    The county funds only a portion, an estimated 22 percent, of the school division’s more than $30 million budget.

    In the upcoming fiscal year, the county will provide a total of $7,686,492 to the division, County Administrator Tom Rose said Monday. He added the total local funding increase is $569,525.

    At their May 8 meeting, the supervisors approved level funding plus 3 percent, for a total of more than $7.3 million local contribution to the school division.

    Rose said supervisors were polled by telephone Thursday, due to a refinanced lease agreement on energy saving measures.

    Supervisors will ratify the vote taken via telephone at their June 12 meeting, Rose said.

    The local share needed for a 2-percent raise to employees “was denied. It was not funded,” Sroufe said Thursday.

    School board member Kandy Burnett, of the Dan River District, on Thursday encouraged school division employees to lodge any complaints with county supervisors.

    Also the $250,000 local share of an anticipated increase in insurance also was not funded, nor was an additional special education teacher the school division planned to hire, Sroufe said.

    However, because two positions will remain unfilled elsewhere in the division, Sroufe said the division will be in a position to add a Special Ed teacher.

    “It troubles me our needs are not being heard,” said Burnett, who also is the vice chairman. “What can we do to make sure our needs are being heard?”

    She noted the school division is the largest employer in the county, but loses employees to adjacent school divisions which pay more.

    “All I hear from people is ‘we’ve got to recruit people for jobs,’” she said, and wondered how to recruit and fill vacancies when the pay is not comparable.

    Supervisors will need “to be willing to cooperate more than they have the last 50 years,” said Annie Hylton, a longtime educator and Peters Creek District school board member.

    “It’s not prudent to set your tax rate before you know your needs,” Sroufe said. “You should see your needs and then set your tax rate.”

    In early April, the supervisors approved level tax rates of 57 cents per $100 of assessed value for real estate and $1.71 per $100 assessed value on personal property.

    “The only way we’re going to be able to educate is for the Board of Supervisors to do what they’re supposed to do,” Hylton said.

    Chairman Ronnie Terry, of the Blue Ridge District, said the relationship between the two boards has “always been confrontational,” which makes it difficult for the two boards to work together.

    “It’s our county too,” Burnett said.

    “I think with what we have, we will continue to do some good things,” Sroufe said. “We can’t allow other people’s behavior to affect ours.”

    School board members also:

    Approved a policy change to allow 12-month employees to shift accumulated unused vacation time to sick time. The time was lost otherwise.

    Approved a new social media policy for staff. Approved a change in substitute pay. Heard an update on the division’s 1 to 1 Initiative on technology in classrooms.

    Approved a motion to allow local volunteer fire and rescue units to use a facility free for one fundraising event each year. The board previously voted to charge those agencies 50 percent for fundraisers. There is no charge for those agencies to use facilities at other times. However, agencies will be required to reimburse the school division for certain fees, such as school staff needed to operate kitchens and equipment.

    Following closed session, the school board voted to rescind a termination notice dated March 9 and accept retirement, effective April 1; implement a Reduction in Force (RIF) policy regarding three pre-K teachers. Two teachers will be transferred within the division, and a third teacher was slated to lose their job.

    After the meeting, Sroufe said decreased enrollment in pre-k prompted the reduction. Currently, there are 84 slots available, but only 69 applicants to the program, he said. Only 43 of those applicants qualify to participate. Even with implementation of the RIF, all of the students to qualify still should be served, he added.