Facing a ‘long-term problem’

Published 11:57 am Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A public hearing regarding Lunenburg County’s fiscal year 2017-18 operating budget mainly focused on the Lunenburg County Public Schools’ budget allocation, which even with an additional appropriation of $250,384 and $100,000 planned to be set aside as an emergency fund for capital improvement projects, is $444,402 less than the $794,786 request the division made during a meeting March 30.

The hearing, which at times became contentious, included remarks by four members of the public who also work in education with three members of the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors responding.

A consensus during the meeting, and what makes this issue more alarming, is this has not been the first time the the division has experienced a budget shortfall.

School board member Doug Aubel said during the hearing that the division was allocated $3.2 million in the county budget in 2000, and little has changed to match inflation or state or federal mandates that have increased costs to support staff or students.

Supervisor T. Wayne Hoover responded that the board of supervisors had done everything possible to match the division’s request, including adding $350,384 to the school budget, which pulled funds from the proposed county budget’s debt service reserves.

If the argument can be made that the division has struggled to receive needed funds to support its staff, administration, teachers and students for more than a decade, then this is a long-term problem.

If the county, which is also responsible for allocating funds for community services and its governmental departments, is unable to adequately support the division’s expenses despite its best efforts and has to pull from its debt service reserves, it’s a glaring indication that a long-term solution should be considered in place of a year-to-year operation — an idea first expressed by Virginia Education Association Representative Evette Wilson.

Certainly this is not the fault of one party. More helpful than villainizing the board of supervisors or the school board may be for the two groups to responsibly open lines of communication and come to a concrete, long-term agreement about what’s needed.

This solution may include raising taxes or lobbying the state government to provide more aid that offsets growing mandated costs.

Emily Hollingsworth is a staff reporter for The Dispatch. Her email address is Emily.Hollingsworth@KVDispatch.com.