Isle of Wight County School Board approves budget

By Matt Leonard

Staff Writer

The Isle of Wight School Board voted unanimously to approve Superintendent Jim Thornton’s proposed budget Tuesday, which includes $953,000 in new funds from Isle of Wight.

The budget underwent some changes from its first presentation at the February School Board meeting due to the state budget being passed, which included a mandated two percent raise for teachers.

“The House and Senate came out with their new budget,” Thornton told the School Board yesterday. “We still don’t have a detailed breakdown, but we do know how much money we are going to get.”

The new budget has $886,853 in new funds from the state, but $495,202 will be going straight to teacher salaries as required by the state budget. Some of the state funds will also be going straight to the Virginia Retirement System. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“That leaves $214,343 of new funds that aren’t tied to anything,” Thornton said during a joint meeting Tuesday with the School Board and Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors.

To help funds the teacher salaries, some changes had to be made on the school budget from its first presentation in February. One of the biggest changes will be the plan to put a laptop in the hands of every ninth grader.

Every freshman will still have a laptop beginning next year, but instead of being Apple brand computers, they will be PCs. The Apple computers would have cost about $500,000. PCs will cost $150,000, which can be covered by two different grants — a VPSA grant and the Intel Kick Start Grant, the latter of which has not yet been received.

Thornton also cut an executive director and a career and a technical education director position, readjusted the supplemental compensation and athletics budget, and will hire one less computer coding teacher. Together, these changes helped the school system meet the state mandate, Thornton said.

Overall, the central office will be cutting 11 positions, but there are 10 new positions within the school system. Those 10 new jobs will be instructional coaches within the schools who will work directly with teachers and learning and educational experts.

The approved budget maintains increases in both instruction and maintenance to meet the goals that Thornton laid out last month.

An additional $1.2 million will go toward the county’s new push for deeper learning.

New instructional costs include the hiring of computer coding teachers to teach students the skill as early as elementary school.

Operational support will increase as well, to help the school system better maintain their current capital assets, which Thornton said have not been properly maintained.

“The operational side of the budget, that’s where we’re hurting,” Thornton said, “and I’ve said that since day one.”

This means $692,423 more for building maintenance, including regular roof repair and a new bus leasing rotation schedule (changing to two four year leases rather than one seven year lease for the fleet).

In the joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors, Thornton said the goal was to make the school budget more consistent with long-term goals, so in future meetings the Supervisors will just have to approve changes in compensation.

“We need to get this budget sound and then we can get a long term plan for compensation,” Thornton said.

During the joint meeting, Rudolph Jefferson, Board of Supervisors vice chairman, asked what plan B would be for the school system if the county wasn’t able to fund the school’s budget as proposed.

“I really don’t have a plan B,” Thornton said, but added that they’d probably have to go back to the School Board and would likely have to choose between priorities in instruction and maintenance.

Interim Isle of Wight County Administrator Sandford “Sandy” Wanner said he would have his proposed budget ready by April, 1.

“This is about 50 percent of our budget, so this is a big deal, “ said Board of Supervisors Chairman Rex Alphin about the school budget.  {/mprestriction}