Worst-case scenario budget on table in NK
New Kent school officials are headed to public hearing with a proposed budget for next year that reflects a worst-case scenario, but not as extreme in terms of revenue shortfalls and job cuts as previously reported.
With the General Assembly’s passage of a compromise budget bill on Sunday, the revenue shortfall could be in the $1.7 million to $2.1 million range, New Kent school superintendent Rick Richardson said. A more solid figure for presentation during schools’ budget public hearing, set for March 29 at 6 p.m. in the high school auditorium, remains up in the air.
“We’re getting all kinds of estimates and projections,” Richardson said earlier this week. “I’m not going out on a limb and making projections until we get information from the [state] Department of Education.
“I’m absolutely delighted that the General Assembly budget came in closer to the Senate version than the House,” he added. “Our shortfall could be closer to $1.7 million, but the numbers are just too soft now.”
At any rate, a $2.1 million or less shortfall is an improvement over the $3.1 million projection from earlier this month.
Under a $2.1 million shortfall, the number of jobs slated for the chopping block totals 30.5 compared to 42 listed a few weeks ago. A shortfall below $2.1 million could mean fewer job cuts.
The 30.5 figure includes 17.5 current teaching positions, but Richardson said schools plan to add six new teaching posts so actual teacher cuts number 11.5.
“We’ve had unexpected growth by 70 students, thus we’re adding six positions to maintain acceptable class size ratios,” he said.
The remaining job cuts are in the support staff, clerical, and teacher aide categories. There are no administrative posts slated for elimination, Richardson said.
“Last year, we had six administrators and this year we have five after we froze the associate superintendent position last year and did not fill it,” he said. “We looked at comparable size school divisions and we have the lowest overall administrative positions of virtually all our neighboring school divisions.”
Also in the proposed budget is a 2 percent across the board pay cut. That’s down from an earlier 4 percent salary reduction.
Richardson said the draft budget is based on level funding from the county. Last year, New Kent’s Board of Supervisors contributed $9.4 million to the school’s current $25.6 million budget.
“That’s all the county can tell us because their revenue picture is still pretty muddy,” Richardson added.
So far, school officials have not developed a bottom line budget figure for the public hearing. That task is to be completed after Ed Smith, schools’ assistant superintendent and finance director, returns later this week from military duty in South Korea.
County School Board members are expected to vote on their proposed budget at the conclusion of the March 29 public hearing. State law requires school systems to have budgets approved by April 1, but those documents are flexible.
“Anything passed on March 29 is subject to change based on final numbers from the General Assembly and what action the Board of Supervisors takes,” Richardson said.
Thus far, supervisors have not released a timetable for action on the overall county budget.
The March 29 date, meanwhile, is also serving as the School Board’s regular monthly meeting for April.