Cuts to school programs, personnel may be needed

School officials learned at a recent work session that some programs may be phased out when the current fiscal year ends on June 30, and personnel, generally the biggest expense, also may be on the chopping block.

The cuts are necessary due to local and projected state budget cuts, according to an April 24 memo from Dean Gilbert, assistant superintendent of operations, to County Administrator Tom Rose, and discussion at an April 26 work session of the Patrick County School Board.

School officials initially requested a little more than $8.4 million in local funds in fiscal 2018-19, but trimmed their budget and later amended the local funding request to $7.7 million.

After the meeting, Ronnie Terry, chairman of the school board, said the school board opted to leave four positions unfilled when making that initial cut.

The affected positions will remain unfilled mainly due to retirement/attrition, he said.  Specific positions are not yet determined.

Last month, the Patrick County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to cap the local contribution to the school division at $7.1 million.

Board members learned several programs may be phased out at the end of the school year because the loss of local funds will prompt cuts in state revenues to the school division, especially for programs that required the locality to pony up a local match.

That is because county funding for the upcoming fiscal year will meet the amount required for local effort, but not the required amount for local match, Sroufe said.

“In addition to the $592,000 less from the locality than what was requested, the school system will be in the position of losing an additional” nearly $1.4 million in state funds, Gilbert wrote in the memo. “Without these required local match funds, the school system would lose” more than $1.9 million.

“If I have to cut $1.9 million, we will have to cut programs and personnel,” Schools Superintendent Bill Sroufe said.

Programs that may be cut include a Virginia Preschool Initiative.

“That would be a big one,” Sroufe said.

An early reading intervention program, K-12 class size reduction, a Standards of Learning (SOL) algebra readiness program and others, according to the memo and discussion at the work session.

Specific information about personnel cuts was not presented. However, school officials said they are working to get employment contracts out to those expected to be renewed.

Sroufe also explained the school division’s budget was crafted using a budget proposed by outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe. As a result, he does not yet know the final amount of potential revenue loss.

“The numbers could change, but I don’t think they will change in a dramatic way,” he said.

State legislators have not yet reached an agreement on the upcoming budget. A state budget – and firmer numbers – is not expected until later this month, he said.

Currently, if the county approved an additional $430,822, the school division may escape the projected cuts, according to discussion at the work session.

Michelle Day, of the Mayo River District, was unable to attend the meeting due to a work conflict.

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