IW School Board adopts reduced budget

Published 5:07 pm Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Isle of Wight County’s School Board has approved a revised 2022-23 school year budget, which now reflects roughly $800,000 less in local funding.

County Administrator Randy Keaton had initially proposed a $27.2 million contribution to Isle of Wight County Schools — a nearly $527,000 increase over the school system’s current local funding. But on May 12, Isle of Wight supervisors voted to cut roughly $393,000 and “set aside” an additional $1.5 million. The move prompted pushback from Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton and School Board members, who were ultimately successful in persuading the supervisors to return $760,000 of the “set aside” funding to the school system on May 19.

According to Thornton, the returned funds are sufficient to avoid layoffs and hire the staff needed for the coming school year — including several new testing coordinators school officials say will free up guidance counselors to spend more time working with students and less time proctoring Virginia’s Standards of Learning Tests.

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But the partially restored funding still left IWCS facing cuts to make up for the $812,507 still “set aside.” On May 23, Thornton proposed – and the School Board approved – cutting $300,000 from a roughly $12.9 million line item for employee benefits, another $200,000 from “purchased services,” $100,000 from “materials” and another $200,000 from “instructional materials.”

Of the initial $393,000 budget cut, roughly $250,000 was tied to the school system’s Capital Improvements Plan, Thornton said. As such, he’s proposed making up the difference by pulling additional funds from instruction and reallocating additional money to transportation and maintenance.

“Since the CIP was taken away, we wanted a little buffer in maintenance,” he said, noting that the supervisors have since agreed to return roughly $197,000 in CIP funds.

Thornton, who will retire at the end of June, still expects the School Board will need to go back to the supervisors at some point during the coming school year to request the remainder of the “set aside” funding.

“When staff next year gets to the point where those categories have no more money … that’s when you need to go back and request those additional funds,” he said.

The School Board approved Thornton’s revised budget unanimously with member John Collick absent.

“I most graciously would like to thank the Board of Supervisors for reinstating some of our funding,” School Board Chairwoman Denise Tynes said.