Ax falls on basic aid in IW schools’ proposed budget

Published 7:30 am Friday, February 13, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—Schools here can expect the biggest budget cut in basic aid under a fiscal year 2010 budget proposal.

Funding for basic aid, which includes salary supplements, textbooks, standards of quality programs and employee benefits, has been reduced in a revised estimate by about $1.5 million from the original fiscal 2009 budget.

“It’s been a very difficult year to come up with a budget,” said Michael McPherson, Isle of Wight schools superintendent.

Steven Jenkins, chief of operations for Isle of Wight schools, gave a presentation on the numbers.

The fiscal 2010 budget is based on an expected $750,000 reduction from the county, and it anticipates a carryover from the previous two budget cycles.

“Our plan is to carry as much as $1.4 million over,” Jenkins said.

Based on state budget cuts, only one support or administrative position will be state-supported for every four funded instructional positions, as guided by the state’s prevailing practices.

The state currently funds 158 support positions; in Isle of Wight, 155 support positions are currently staffed. The state’s budget would support funding for 101 support positions for fiscal 2010.

“We are right at prevailing practices, which I think is a good indicator of where we should be,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins discussed uncertainties in the state revenue, including state revenue collections, the state of the economy and a precipitous drop in sales tax collections. In Isle of Wight, sales tax receipts are showing a drop when compared to figures from previous years.

Despite cuts, the budget process will be directed by the goal to avoid direct negative impact on students.

“You will not see larger classroom sizes,” said Jenkins. Central coordination of curriculum, maintenance of technology and school bus replacements also are expected to escape cuts.

McPherson said that for now, the federal economic stimulus package will not influence the budget process.

“I’m not building a budget based on the stimulus package,” he said. “We don’t know how it will be applied.

“As we go through this, we can probably expect it to be … April or May before we know what the budget’s going to be like next year.”

Board members also were updated on the presence of athletic trainers at Windsor and Smithfield High schools, an issue that citizens brought to the board’s attention at the Jan. 14 meeting.

Jenkins said that personnel at both high schools were contacted, and that athletic trainers are present two days per week at each school based on a contract going back several years.

“Most of the decisions are made by the athletic trainers,” said Jenkins.

Typically the trainers are in attendance at games for sports with the greatest risk, but the trainers have radios to inform them if an accident occurs at a game where there is no trainer. During non-game weeks, trainers are in attendance at practices at the schools.

The board did not take any action and is expected to return to the issue. McPherson said that the issue of athletic trainers would be discussed at the board’s budget work session, including how much it would cost to have trainer coverage at all events for the next fiscal year. A recommendation will be brought to the board in March, said McPherson.

The school board’s budget work session, which is open to the public, will take place at 2 p.m. on Feb. 18.

A public hearing for the budget is scheduled for the March 12 board meeting.

In other news, a number of students were recognized at the board meeting for recent achievements.

The following students from Smithfield and Windsor High schools won awards at the District 19 DECA Competition: Amber Bowser, Gloria Bridges, Brittany Brown, Haley Brown, Taylor Campbell, Tasia Eddy, Dreama Forbes, Christina Williams, Jarad Ford, Makai Grant, Laureen Lessard, Brandi Pratt, Josh Rice and Ariel Scott.