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Cuts demanded: New IW school budget could mean 48 jobs would be lost

Published 10:15am Friday, May 3, 2013

BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Playback58@gmail.com

SMITHFIELD—Eliminating 48 jobs and delaying the middle school iPad initiative in Isle of Wight County Schools are among the 18 items in the proposed revised school budget.

Presented Wednesday in the school board office, this was done in reaction to what Board of Supervisors Chairwoman JoAnn Hall last week told the school board: That it must come up with a new fiscal year 2013-14 budget, which was earlier proposed at $63.5 million. Funding from the county was figured at $32.6 million.

Hall, who represents the Hardy District, said a possible 22-cent tax hike to fund both the county’s budget and also its share for the schools is out of the question.

“Even a flat budget from last year is optimistic,” she added.

“It does not look pretty,” School Board Chairman Robert Eley said about the revision, “and it’s not where the school board wants to be, but where it has to be.”

Christina Berta, the schools’ executive director of budget and finance, reviewed the proposal, which includes the following:

  • Eliminate 48 full-time equivalent positions, specifically elementary and secondary teachers, instructional assistants, and restructure special education teaching positions and library aides. That could save $1.44 million.
  • Postpone textbook and E-learning resource upgrades as well as iPads in middle schools. That could save $859,305.
  • Reduce technology, such as delays in technology upgrades, hardware and software replacements and staff development. That could save $611,586.
  • Make staff adjustments in instructional administration. That could save $590,000. There’s no information yet on specific positions, said school spokesman Kenita Bowers in an e-mail to The Tidewater News. “Various classroom/instructional positions as well as Central Office and building level administration positions will be considered if necessary,” she added.
  • Reduce instructional materials by 25 percent. That could save $81,073.
  • Reduce bus maintenance. That could save $50,000.
  • Eliminate summer school for grades K-8. That could save $38,000.

Including those above, the total reductions are $4.35 million, which still leaves $842,975 more to get at the $5.2 million reduction required by the supervisors.

Later, the school board unanimously agreed to park its white fleet until June 30, and suspend any mileage reimbursement until money is found.

“I’m speechless regarding this,” School Superintendent Katrise Perera said. “They’re not just numbers on paper or line items. I can see the impact on students. This is very disturbing to me.”

She added that the county can not afford to go backward where technology and education are concerned.

“We cannot expect this to not have a real and drastic impact on classrooms,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum/ Instruction & Administration Laura Abel. “There has to be a combination of teachers and technology.”

Kent Hildebrand of the school’s Newport District said the supervisors’ flat budget is approximately $21.6 million, and that there’s no new revenue coming in. He suggested, however, the school board look into a transportation fee, such as the kind he’s heard about used in the Midwest.

“Education will still continue in Isle of Wight. Students will be educated,” said Denise Tynes of the school’s Smithfield District.

“Our profit is the future,” said Julia Perkins of the school’s Windsor District, to which Perera said, “You can’t put a number on that.”

A public hearing on the school budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9, in the county courthouse. The supervisors could vote on that budget Thursday, May 16, when they meet at 5 p.m. in the courthouse.

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