CC School Board, supervisors spar over money, office space
Charles City School Board members have been clamoring for a face-to-face work session with the county’s Board of Supervisors. Last week, they got their wish.
The joint meeting followed a March 10 formal presentation of the schools’ proposed $12 million next year budget to supervisors. The format centered on issues brought up by the School Board.
Discourse proved to be polite, but the session took on tense tones at times, starting when assistant county administrator Jay Brown revealed that during the last fiscal year, schools had not utilized $600,000 in county money. The money had been returned to the county at the end of the year and placed in the county’s fund balance. With state and federal dollars added in, schools’ unspent total reached close to $1 million for the year.
But as quickly as it arose, the subject was dropped and the boards moved on to discussing contingency funds. School Board chairman Roy Campbell said schools should have a separate fund for emergencies, but supervisors’ chairman Timothy Cotman countered that the county already maintains a contingency fund.
“I’m not against a school contingency, but we do have a contingency fund for the county,” Cotman said. “We have a finite amount of money and a finite number we can expect our citizens to additionally fund.”
School Board member Royce Paige complained that schools are “trying to operate on a Third World income.” He also expressed concern that state money for preschool programs for three- and four-year-olds is drying up and the federal government is pushing localities hard on No Child Left Behind requirements.
Cotman replied, “The state has said it will not raise taxes, no matter how deep the hole gets. You can say the buck stops here, but we don’t have bucks to take care of that. We can’t pick up everything the state won’t pay for.
“We give you a certain amount of money, and we don’t tell you how to use it,” he said. “I don’t see how you can find money to operate that particular program. We don’t have the money to say fund that specific program.”
Discussion then switched to condition of the School Board’s office space inside the county government building. Cramped quarters, broken windows and rotted frames, and mold buildup have made school officials “feel like orphans,” board member Barbara Crawley charged.
“If you have a problem, give us a call,” county administrator Jack Miniclier said.
Campbell then pointed to “a breakdown in communications,” claiming Miniclier had promised earlier to address the situation. Miniclier responded that he did not recall specifics of the earlier conversation.
In the end though, Miniclier said he would be happy to conduct an inspection tour of the School Board office space.
Last on the agenda was the matter of an efficiency study. Supervisor Gilbert Smith suggested the county and schools seek to share some services to improve efficiency.
But both board chairmen noted neither group has money to spend on hiring an outside firm to conduct a study. Both boards then agreed to have Miniclier and school superintendent Janet Crawley meet to discuss how to proceed on the matter.