More money for education sought

Published 7:29 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Supervisors seek to close gap in education request

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor 

Closing the gap on the School Board’s budget request and providing an SRO for Georgie Tyler Middle School were two items the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors is pursuing as it finalizes its proposed fiscal 2019 operating budget. 

The county’s proposed $74 million fiscal 2019 operating budget calls for $26.1 million for the schools — about $100,000 short of the $26.2 million requested by the School Board in its approved budget. 

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The $26.1 million represents an increase of $994,300 from the previous fiscal year’s budget request from the School Board. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Numerous teachers, parents and bus drivers spoke to the Board at a public hearing last month, describing increasingly crowded conditions and the need for more teachers and bus drivers. 

The budget approved by the School Board included four new teachers and raises for teachers, instructional aides and nurses, as well as two mobile classrooms at Westside Elementary School. 

At a budget work session Thursday, Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice suggested the $100,000 come out of the schools’ reserve maintenance fund that is currently in excess of $400,000.

The fund had been established several years ago to cover unforeseen repairs. 

County Administrator Randy Keaton said the money could come from the county’s operational budget or the schools’ maintenance budget.

No decision on where the funds would come from was made Thursday.

The Board also considered a $75,000 request by Isle of Wight County Sheriff James Clarke to put a school resource officer at Georgie D. Tyler Middle School. 

Clarke said the same activities that have long prompted SROs in the high school are now going on at the middle school level.

The schools currently have a full-time SRO at Smithfield High School and a full-time SRO at Smithfield Middle School. Another SRO divides her time between Windsor High School and Georgie Tyler. 

Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie said a newly formed task force has realized the county needs to be careful in weighing the large emotions that occur after a large shooting incident, such as Parkland, Fla., against the actual prevalence of school shootings, as well as the concerns of parents. 

So far, the task force is aiming to deter, detect and defend, he said, adding that the schools are looking at a one-touch emergency communication system and new radios. 

In March, the Board of Supervisors approved a request by Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton to use saved maintenance funds, about $822,000, to purchase an array of security devices, such as the one-touch communication system. 

The security upgrades were recommended in a study completed by Honeywell in 2016. 

Clarke said Thornton was O.K. with adding an SRO at Georgie Tyler and the principals at Windsor and the middle school were in favor of it. 

Grice suggested county staff look for ways to fund the request. 

Grice also suggested that when it came to local contributions, that Isle of Wight decrease the amount it proposed to Paul D. Camp Community College from $34,151 to $18,000 and increase the contribution to the Western Tidewater Free Clinic from $25,000 to $35,750.

Grice said the proposed increase to the free clinic reflects the increase in patients there from Isle of Wight County. 

As for PDCCC, Grice said he didn’t personally know any students who attended the college, which has a facility in Smithfield, as well as Franklin, Suffolk and Southampton County. 

Then again, “At 72 years old, I don’t hang out with a lot of teenagers,” Grice said.

After a pause, Windsor Supervisor Joel Acree said, “That’s probably good.” 

Isle of Wight planning and zoning staff has also proposed standardizing rezoning fees. For example, the proposed fee to rezone a single residential lot would go from $750, plus $50 per lot to $1,200 — the same cost for rezoning a planned development or multi-family residential development. 

The Board also decided to forgo a proposed maintenance fund for the county’s seven fire and rescue organizations. 

The county’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget does not call for any tax increases or service cuts, but does include a 5 percent increase in water rates for Isle of Wight water customers. The proposed budget includes a 2 percent across-the-board salary increase, as well as a merit increase for eligible employees. 

The $74 million operating budget is up about $2 million from the fiscal 2018 adopted budget, an increase that reflects increased revenues and cost savings and will not require taking any funds from reserves.

Savings are reflected in lower SPSA tipping fees for solid waste, increased personal property tax revenues and dropping an expensive generator maintenance agreement in exchange for doing it in-house. 

A slight increase in property assessments, as well as machinery and tools tax revenues, have also contributed to increased revenues.  {/mprestriction}