Our take on the schools’ deficit

Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lunenburg County Public Schools ended up having a deficit of $317,000 owed in debt service for construction of the middle school.

The county ended up paying the debt, and now the system will repay them.

That sounds simple enough.

But wait.

It turns out that the school system still has money coming in that could go toward the bill, including accrued money on various accounts — funds that don’t usually come in until July or early August.

So maybe the deficit isn’t as bad as originally thought.

How did we get here?

Maybe the problem is too many moving parts.

And maybe we should remember that the system is actually better off than it might have been — and certainly things are better than they were earlier in the year when it was running a nearly $1 million deficit.

And the reasons have largely been well-documented.

It started out with the system falling 41 students short of projected enrollment for the 2015-16 academic year, causing an approximately $400,000 shortfall.

Then, for the 2016-17 academic year, insurance went up by approximately $110,000; and the state gave some of the system’s employees 2-percent raises — prompting the need for administrators to come up with $307,000 to give raises to everyone else.

In the budget adopted by the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors in June, the public schools are getting an additional $50,000, plus the allowance of $156,268 in fiscal year 2015 carryover to equal $206,268 above the current year’s $3,239,616 local funding.

The $206,268 is less than the $342,000 requested by the system to provide the 2-percent pay increase, but we commend the county for doing what it can.

We also remind the community that we’ve been warned that a tax increase is inevitable.

It does not appear that the school system is guilty of some type of poor management or malfeasance, as much as it was the victim of circumstances beyond its control.

School officials have taken to saying that they want more transparency. Since we are journalists, that is something we are always in favor of.

County Administrator Tracy Gee may have summed it up best when she told school officials that she hopes “we’ll continue to stay in touch and things will be smoother from here out.”

Then, she added, “Ending on a good note, I feel like things can only go up from here.”

We certainly hope so.