Grayson seeks budget comments

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INDEPENDENCE — The Grayson County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing about the school system’s proposed $20.76 million 2010-11 budget at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Grayson County Courthouse boardroom.

The budget includes a request for $5.1 million in county money – a 22 percent increase from this year’s local contribution of $4 million and an 8 percent increase from $4.7 million in county funds in the 2008-09 budget. The request is on par with the local contribution of $5.1 million in 2007.

The budget does not include debt service for an estimated $17.5 million school facilities construction plan.

Facing nearly $2.5 million in state and federal cuts, in part because of declining enrollment, the school system’s proposed budget includes cutting about 20 full-time and part-time staff.

The proposed schools’ local funding request includes $4.1 million, the local amount required to secure all state money, and $900,000 for “essential requests,” which would repeal some major budget cuts, including a cut in the school year from 180 to 175 days, a handful of teaching and instructional aide positions, five school buses and roof replacement at Grayson County High School.

“Our system is one of the hardest hit school divisions in the state with a 14.5 percent reduction,” Superintendent Elizabeth Thomas said. “In comparison, Galax City Public Schools had less than 3 percent cuts and Carroll County Public Schools had about 7 percent cuts in state funding.

“Education is crucial for the success of our young people and the strength of our county. There is a direct correlation between education and the economic health of communities.”

Thomas noted that the school system is the county’s largest employer.

The supervisors are in the midst of 2010-11 budget work sessions and discussions and got their first look at the budget last Wednesday.

“We are going to look seriously at the school board’s request and continue to fund education at the highest level possible, based on what the county can afford,” Administrator Jonathan Sweet said in an e-mail. “At this juncture, it is unclear what that is.

“The board [of supervisors] is committed to stretching and optimizing every cent and will most certainly face larger challenges this year than in years past,” Sweet added. “With the county predicting a reduction in a host of local revenue streams, a depleted reserve fund and the many state funding reductions, it is going to be a difficult exercise to continue core services, to service the enormous school debt, and to preserve the non-essential services many citizens currently enjoy.”