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Grayson approves $20.9M school budget

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Grayson supervisors will provide $1 million more than the local amount required to receive the maximum in state funding for education — but the school system won’t have an extra penny to spend.

Supervisors met last Wednesday night to continue discussion on the requested $20.7 million from the school board.

The school board previously asked the county not only to provide the $4.1 million required to draw down state funding, but also an additional $900,000 for items such as additional buses, adding five school days back to the calendar and reinstating a few lost teaching positions.

Prior to discussion on the school budget, County Administrator Jonathan Sweet provided the supervisors with a brief history and projection of the school system’s Average Daily Membership (ADM) — a primary factor in determining state and local funding requirements.

Sweet pointed out that in 2007 the school system’s ADM was 2,064, while a projection for the next school year had that number as low as 1,866.

Supervisor Mike Maynard pointed out the difference in the numbers and added that, in the current budget the board is funding more than $2,000 per student. That number will increase to more than $4,100 if the projected ADM is accurate for next year.

“At some point in time, the reduced ADM has to show up in some lowered expense, I would think,” Maynard said. “The state certainly has acknowledged that in the way they fund schools.”

Sweet agreed and explained that the minimum funding required for the next budget is actually more than in the current budget — with a lower ADM.

Maynard then reminded the board that when it embarked on the long-term facilities update plan years ago, the idea was to help absorb some of the cost with more efficient schools.

With the closure of Mount Rogers Combined, Bridle Creek School and Providence Elementary, Maynard noted that the school system should be seeing a cost savings in the range of $1.1 million based on previous calculations.

If those projections are even close to precise, Maynard said the school system should have additional money in its budget for the priorities they had listed.

As discussions continued, the idea arose to put additional debt service funds into the budget.

Maynard said he would highly encourage supervisors to consider this idea to show what kinds of investments are being made in the school system.

When asked what that number needed to be, Sweet said the county is using a figure of $1 million in debt service for interim financing costs associated with Phase I of the school system’s facility update plan.

This, he said, would increase the debt service line in the budget to more than $1.1 million, with the understanding that $1 million of that would be used solely to cover interest and principal payments on the school construction loan until permanent financing can be obtained.

Sweet added that if the interest payment on the loan was $500,000, the other $500,000 would be applied to principal — thus reducing the overall amount borrowed.

Though Supervisor Joe Vaughan suggested purchasing two new buses, the overall consensus of the board appeared to be providing only level funding.

Chairman Larry Bartlett summed it up — as the facilities are reduced and the ADM continues to drop, the budget continues to grow.

“We cannot afford at this time in our budget to go any further than the required local effort,” Bartlett said, noting that the state uses people more qualified than them to calculate what localities should pay for.

Sweet then recommended the board also consider moving $49,125 from the maintenance line item into the debt service, as well, bringing the total to $1.186 million in debt service.

With no further comments, Vice Chairman Doug Carico motioned to approve the budget of $20.884 million. The motion was seconded by Vaughan and passed unanimously.