Charles City school board pitches proposed budget to county supervisors
After approving its $10.8 million budget at its Feb. 20 meeting, Charles City school board presented the figure to county leaders as part of Tuesday night’s regular board meeting.
Led by superintendent of schools David Gaston and school board chairwoman Helen Payne-Jones, the Powerpoint presentation highlighted a budget of need by the schools. Gaston spoke about the ongoing struggles of providing an accurate budget and having to request more money at the local level as state and federal funding continues to dwindle.
When it came to county funding, the superintendent presented an ask of $6,018,471 in local money. That request is $755,587 more than what is being provided by the county for the current year. The schools are also seeking $2.3 million in the upcoming Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), more than $1 million that had been budgeted in the plan’s layout created three years ago. Payne-Jones told supervisors that the ask for more funding is a result of the 26-year old facilities suffering setbacks due to the recent winter storm.
After the presentation concluded, two supervisors elected to ask questions to the superintendent and school board chairwoman.
“You’re asking for nearly three-quarters of a million dollars for this year?” asked District 2 supervisor Bill Coada. “Didn’t we give the schools $200,000 more last year and $100,000 more the year before that?
“According to my calculations, if we taxed the citizens alone that would amount to a 13.8 cent increase,” Coada continued. “If we gave you this amount, we would have given the schools more than $1 million in the last three years.”
District 1 representative and board of supervisors’ chairman Gilbert Smith asked about the dwindling school population.
“What is factoring in the enrollment? Why is it declining?” Smith asked the superintendent.
Like an eggshell cracking with the yolk dripping out, Gaston delivered an explanation that many in attendance were waiting to hear based on the murmurs and audience response.
“You have an older generation in this county and it’s becoming a retirement community,” the superintendent responded. “A lot of a time we have graduates tell us the first thing they are going to do is get out of Charles City and they leave the county.
“There is not a lot of economic drivers right now,” Gaston continued. “Look at the Taco Bell they just built in New Kent. A lot of kids are flocking over there because it gives them the opportunity to have a job.
“There is so much opportunity in Charles City,” the superintendent said as he wrapped up his comments. “All it takes is a small shift in a positive direction and I am willing to work with the board [of supervisors] in order to make it happen.”
County leaders will receive their first formal look at County Administrator’s Michelle Johnson’s proposed budget at the March regular meeting.