19 May Board Approves Budget & Blames School Cuts on State (VA)May 19, 2010
By: MARVIN HAMLETTSource: Times-Virginian
The Appomattox County Board of Supervisors officially approved a budget on Monday that will short-fund state-matching school money for the first time in Appomattox history.
The Board of Supervisors approved the $37.3 million budget on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Sam Carter casting the lone dissenting vote.
Carter took issue with the school funding part of the budget – a $3.8 million local appropriation that is $521,000 short of meeting the budget proposed by the Appomattox Coun ty School Board.
The shortfall will cost the School Board an extra $400,000 in state-matching funds and could also jeopardize adult education programs, Pre-K programs and middle school athletic programs.
"Nobody wants to raise taxes," Carter said. "But in order for this county to move forward, we need to address this seriously. We need to at least minimally fund the schools. I can’t support (the budget). That’s the way I feel, and that’s the way my constituents in the Courthouse District feel."
Carter added that he was willing to recommend a tax increase "for something of this magnitude."
But that’s where Carter was in direct disagreement with his four fellow supervisors.
Supervisor Willie Craft suggested that it would cost six cents in real estate tax increases to cover the school funding shortfall.
"I feel sorry for the kids, we’ve got to look out for all of the citizens," Craft said, adding that many nearby school divisions have had their funding cut. &am p;quot;We’re not the only big bad wolf in the state when it comes to school divisions."
Supervisor Tom Conrad noted that the Board of Supervisors raided $200,000 out of its rainy day fund to help the School budget shortfall.
"That $200,000 came from our reserve fund and reduced it by 52 percent," Conrad said. "There just isn’t any other funding, and we as a board do not want to raise taxes."
Board Chairman Gary Tanner noted that the $200,000 from the "rainy day fund" would allow the School System to meet all of the requirements from the Standards of Quality.
"The schools have done a good job of finding as much money as they could," Tanner said, adding that "people on fixed incomes" are not capable of bearing the burden of a tax increase.
Supervisor Tom Conrad stressed that the Virginia General Assembly had crippled many localities by required unfunded mandates.
"It’s real easy to put the locality as a scapegoat, but the state elected this year to cut funding for different aspects," Conrad said. "They didn’t raise taxes. The schools are important, but the state has to take responsibility because they’ve put us in this position. … You can’t get blood out of a turnip."
"This bothers me because the state is not doing their job," he said. "But somehow, we can’t let that interfere with education."
Following the budget vote, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allow the School System to use any l eftover funds for the next fiscal year.
By approving the budget, the supervisors ensure that there will be no tax increase this year, leaving the real estate tax rate at 48 cents per $100 of assessed value.