NCHS

Nelson County High School file photo

Although the county has yet to approve its proposed fiscal year 2020 budget, the Nelson County School Board has begun laying out scenarios to prepare for less funding than hoped for.

One proposal discussed at a school board budget work session on May 15 included cutting the drivers’ education program in the high school; combining bus routes in the afternoon so elementary, middle, and high school kids are going home at the same time; eliminating two bus routes; and cutting 10.5 teacher, administration, and faculty positions based mostly off retirements and resignations. Other positions will be given new titles that come with a salary decrease and some positions will be absorbed into others.

“I understand we are trying to make it work, but everyone else is going to have to understand this is what we are doing. We are trying to make it work and we are spreading thin,” said South District Supervisor Ceasar Perkins. “I want everyone to know we are doing this for the good of the cause, but with the good of the cause there is going to come some pain and suffering.”

The scenario presented last week allows the school division to provide a 3 percent salary increase, helps the staff with the 18.8 percent health insurance increase, and adds a behavior specialist.

“What I think the public doesn’t understand is that this is not new, what we did different this year is we tried to educate everyone,” Janet Turner-Giles, vice chair of the school board, said on May 15 referring to having to make cuts to balance the operational budget.

The school board’s operational budget currently totals just over $29 million, including the $1.9 million increase requested from the county.

The school board told the public via Facebook on May 1, cuts will have to be made if the budget is not fully funded. At a budget work session, Shannon Irvin and Martha Eagle, division superintendent, proposed the possible scenario to make up for the operational budget shortfall.

“I think it’s important for staff and community to know we are looking across the board. Nothing is sacred,” Eagle said.

The board also discussed getting sponsors for the high school welding program as suggested by George Cheape, interim East District representative and whether or not to suggest another joint meeting with the board of supervisors, but haven’t finalized anything regarding the two proposals. A handful of individuals attended the budget work session and provided some suggestions to help the school division including fundraising at a division level, lowering the starting salaries for teachers, and charging for driver’s education classes. The school already does this, but it does not charge enough to offset the expenses of the class.The board also looked at what it can tackle, hopefully over the summer, in capital improvement plan should the board of supervisors approve the proposed $859,913 for capital improvement projects (CIP). With the money, the board discussed purchasing four new buses, vehicle vans or cars for transportation, cameras in the buses; repairing the Tye River Elementary School gym roof; upgrading the building management system for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning division wide; and resurfacing the athletic track at the high school.

The school board is still waiting to see how much a welding facility upgrade would cost and confirming the tennis court repairs done earlier this year is not included in the allocated CIP money before deciding where to spend the money.

No final decisions will be made and the school board will revisit the budget after the county approves its own budget.

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Erin Conway covers Nelson County. Reach her at (434) 385-5524 or econway@newsadvance.com.

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