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School Board members get budget lesson

By Cory L. Higgs

Members of the Patrick County School Board got a crash course in budget training at their Jan. 28 meeting. Schools Superintendent Dean Gilbert lead the group through a lengthy training session dissecting the school division’s budget.

Each member received a packet of information to show where the funds are directed in the school division. Gilbert noted that of the 25 total pages of the budget, the first 11 pages document detailed the cost of instruction, which is the area in which the county spends the most money.

Gilbert said the budget normally is around $28 million, with slight fluctuations year to year. Instruction roughly accounts for $18.5 million of the budget followed by administration at $1.5 million; transportation at $2 million; maintenance at $2.2 million; foodservice at $1.5 million; technology at $1.7 million and facilities at $300,000. (All figures were rounded.)

Each category is organized by a number system assigned to different levels in the school system. A string 17 numerals represent anything from individuals salaries to food costs per school, Gilbert said, adding that all cost centers are categorized by a numerical sequence.

Other tools were explained to the board, such as calculation tools and online budget information from the state. Discussion also includes state funds that the division may receive, and the process of using those funds.

Gilbert said a recent bill passed by Gov. Ralph Northam would allow for a 3.3 percent raise for teachers; however, due to local match regulations and the lack of funds in the county, the raise would have to take part over a few years to avoid the county footing the bill by default.

Gilbert explained the process of how to maintain a balanced budget and how to maintain a budget in a county that is in a finical valley.

“It’s a balancing game” to make sure the schools make ends meet, Gilbert said, and recalled sleepless night and ‘sweating bullets’ when balancing the budget was nearing the school division’s budget cap.

Denise Sirewalt, of the Peters Creeks District on the Patrick County Board of Supervisors, asked questions about the budget, and reiterated that the supervisors and the school board “are one.”

Shannon Harrell, who represents the Blue Ridge District on the school board, said that the session was beneficial and answered many questions she had about the budget. Other new members reiterated similar sentiments.

Walter Scott, vice chairman of the school board, did not attend the meeting.

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