Supervisors take aim

 

The Patrick County Board of Supervisors on Monday reacted to comments from school board members about the local contribution to the school division.

School officials initially requested an $812,787 increase in local funding, including $250,000 for an anticipated increase in insurance costs.

Supervisors initially voted to give the school division level funding for the upcoming fiscal year, plus 3 percent, for a total of more than $7.3 million local contribution to the school division. At the time, officials said that represented an increase of $231,509.

Last week, supervisors agreed to up the local contribution to a total of $569,525 and for a total of $7,686,492 in local funds to the division.

After the increase was approved, Crystal Harris, chairman of the board, said she was “feeling comfortable that we had done our due diligence” to fund the school division.

However, after learning about remarks made by some school board members, “I felt like I had had been kicked in the gut.”

According to previous reports, some school board members were dissatisfied with the supervisors and the amount of the local contribution. Some said that because of the local contribution, division employees would not receive a 2 percent raise approved by the General Assembly and noted the insurance increase was not funded.

However, Roger Hayden, of the Dan River District, said Monday, “the Board of Supervisors did not approve that raise. We didn’t have to approve that. The state approved it, and with no local match” needed.”

Reading from the actual document, Hayden said the only requirement is the school division must certify the funds were spent on pay raises.

Hayden said he felt comments made by school board members were “a slap in the face to every taxpayer” in the county.

“I try not to raise my voice. I try to be nice,” Hayden said. “But if it takes a fight, I’m in it to win.”

Both Hayden and Rickie Fulcher, of the Peters Creek District, said the actual amount of the insurance increase was not yet known for any affected employees or departments. They both said that expense would be revisited when the actual costs were known, and noted that had been communicated to school officials.

Noting the absence of school board members or administrative employees at the meeting, Fulcher said when adjustments were made to the school budget, such omitting the estimated insurance increase, local funding actually exceeded the amount school officials requested by $6,738.

“And they couldn’t fund your pay increase,” Fulcher said to the 30 or so division employees at the meeting.

Lock Boyce, of the May River District, said he had several questions he would like to pose to Schools Superintendent William Sroufe. He said there had been “a parade of teachers in my office (to) fill me in on what’s going on in the school division.”

He added Patrick County provides nearly the same local match to the school division as does Henry County, (which has more than double the population base and more businesses/industries).

Karl Weiss, of the Blue Ridge District, said “we gave them everything they wanted. What do they want us to do … Take some back?”

Also Monday, Joan Rogers, director of the Patrick County Department of Social Services, asked the board to fund the additional $51,048 increase from her department to hire an additional foster care employee, as well as another social worker. The board took no action, but indicated support for the agency.

Several school division employees addressed the board on Monday. Some of their comments/concerns will be included in an upcoming story.

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