Money for fiscal year 2020 will be available July 1, now that the Nelson County Board of Supervisors has adopted the balanced budget proposal.
On June 11, the board of supervisors voted 4 to 1 to adopt the $42.7 million proposed budget for fiscal year 2019-20. Ernie Reed, Central District supervisor, voted against the motion. In May, Reed said he was in favor of fully funding the school division’s operational budget request of almost $17 million in county funding, a $1.9 million increase from the previous year. However, the proposed budget only increased funding by $350,000.
After the budget was adopted by the county, a second motion to appropriate the funds was approved by the board unanimously. The overall budget is a 3.8 percent increase in revenue from all sources from fiscal year 2019.
“The state law requires appropriation of funds before they can be extended,” Steve Carter, county administrator, told the board.
In this approved budget, new expenditures include the early pay-off of the Piney River water and sewer system debt, and the Nelson Memorial Library expansion and renovation project, as well as funding for the Blue Ridge Tunnel project. Education, with debt included, makes up the largest single expenditure in the county’s budget at 43%. Public safety expenses, with debt included, make up the next highest expenditure at 14% while the other 10 portions of proposed expenditures each makeup less than 10% of the overall expenses for the next fiscal year.
Questions were raised on June 11 regarding which fund to use for the library expansion project and whether or not changes can be made to the budget without another public hearing. Carter said limited changes could be made without the need for another public hearing and no changes were made to funding the library expansion project, despite brief discussion.
The budget approval and appropriation comes after contention between the Nelson County School Board and the county on how much to fund the school division’s operational budget. The vote on June 11 gives the school division just over $15 million in local funding for operational expenses.
At a school board meeting on June 13, the school board voted unanimously to approve the $27.5 million operational budget for the division. David Parr, West District representative, was absent. The board also approved the capital improvement funding of $859,913 allocated by the Nelson County Board of Supervisors unanimously and the textbook fund of $834,000.
Although the operational budget has been approved, the school board still has to figure out how to make up for the $1.4 million deficit. The deficit dropped to $1.4 million because the school division did not include the salary step increases in the staff contracts that were sent out mid-May as previously planned.
Suggestions have included eliminating 10.5 staffing positions, behind the wheel drivers training, two transportation routes and double bus runs in the afternoon, reclassifying positions to save money and consolidating three administrative positions into two.
“We look at these cuts; absolutely every one of these are essential to moving this county forward,” Janet Turner-Giles, vice chair of the school board, said.
Implementation of all of those proposed cuts allows the division to provide staff a three percent raise and abate some of the health insurance increases.
Last week a new idea came about. The board discussed not hiring a behavioral health specialist as hoped. The position had been in the works for a number of years. Ceaser Perkins, South District representative, said everyone in the county should be one team when it comes to the budget each year and what hurts the division, hurts everyone.
“It’s going to sting all of us. We don’t have any way to make up that difference. We don’t have any funding [resources] to go to other than the county. They’re not giving it to us, we can’t find it. So here we are and this is the ball we are going to play with,” Perkins said.
The budget approval comes with the finalization of personnel for the next school year, including the decision to not hire a behavioral specialist. Discussion on different programs like offering practice SAT tests, tuition reimbursement for teachers, and the overall costs of health care of the division are still in the works.
“We don’t know who is going to take what plan,” Eagle said on why health insurance costs aren’t finalized.
The school board has already sent a letter to the county requesting money from the approved capital improvement funding to start work on some capital projects over the summer. The request by Eagle includes funds to purchase new vehicles, repairing the gym roof at Tye River Elementary School, resurfacing the track at the high school, and conducting a facility study of the middle and high school complex. Funding for fiscal years 2019-2020 will be available starting July 1.
In other news: Jesse Rutherford, East District representative, asked the Virginia Department of Transportation to put up more “No Parking” signs around the Schuyler Quarries to discourage people from trespassing onto the properties for swimming. This request comes after the death of 18-year-old Henry Morin, of Doswell, after an accident at one of the quarries in Albemarle. “I think it’s important the statement be made, ‘don’t go.’ Tell the kids, ‘don’t go to the quarries’,” Rutherford said.
The Nelson County Animal Control department in Nelson County is looking to move its office from Lovingston to near the Nelson County Animal Shelter on Morse Lane in Arrington. Kevin Wright, the supervisor of animal control, said with the addition of two animal control officers and the increase in cases in the department, they need more space. The school division is working on getting a new electronic sign outside the high school. The funding has been in the works for a number of years and is not part of this fiscal year’s budget. Division Superintendent Martha Eagle said on June 13, the $28,500 comes from an array of sources the high school has been collecting over the years. The electronic sign will be surrounded by a brick structure, built by the high school building trades class.
Erin Conway covers Nelson County for the News and Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.