Support for more Isle of Wight school funding questionedPublished 11:22am Saturday, May 11, 2013
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
ISLE OF WIGHT—Corey Hearn of Smithfield was a notable exception among the people who spoke at the crowded public hearing Thursday for the proposed Isle of Wight County school budget. Whereas most of the 24 speakers called on the Board of Supervisors to help the school system with more money, Hearn said otherwise.
He supported the supervisors’ recent call in late April for the schools to come up with a local flat funding of $27.6 million. In response to that demand, a revised budget offered May 1 included eliminating 48 teaching positions and delaying many technology upgrades. Altogether the cuts total $4.35 million, leaving $842,975 more to get at the $5.2 million reduction required by the supervisors. The original budget was $63.5 million.
In addition to suggesting cuts in vehicle expenses, Hearn said he thinks the proposed budget is much heavier in administration, and questioned the proposal to cut the 48 jobs to reach the required funding.
“How many six-figure administrators were recommended to be cut? That’s right: Zero,” Hearn said. He added that the supervisors shouldn’t allow the school system to bully them by threatening both teachers and students.
Someone else concerned about the budget was Stephanie Bailey, president of the Isle of Wight Education Association.
“We’re in a bad place. A very bad place,” Bailey said about teachers and their reported low morale. In previous meetings, she’s noted there have been no raises included in any of the budgets.
“Teachers feel they are toys to be played,” she added.
Among the people calling for support of schools were students such as Will Wyatt, Racquel Doherty and William Archer, all at Windsor High School. Wyatt said he and his classmates have notice low morale among teachers.
“We’ve heard of teachers looking for work elsewhere,” he said.
Some residents said they recognized the need for raising taxes. Herb DeGroft, the school board member representing the Hardy District, gave Supervisor Chairwoman JoAnn Hall a personal check for $450, which he figured is part of his share in increased taxes. He was asked to present it to the county treasurer.
“I do feel you need a tax increase,” said Windsor Mayor Rita Richardson, who mentioned she had taught for 30 years.
“You’re going to pay for it now or you’re going to pay for it later. Later is always more expensive,” said Ed Easter in support of raising taxes now for schools.
The school budget will be discussed by the supervisors at a work session 10 a.m. Monday, May 13, in the courthouse board room, and it could come up for a vote Thursday, May 16.
The school board will have a work session at
5 p.m. in the same location this Monday, followed by a meeting at 7 p.m.