Don’t bank on stimulus money

Published 8:12 am Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Isle of Wight County’s school board last week set a terrific example for its counterparts in Franklin and Southampton County.

The board passed a lean fiscal 2010 budget that disregards the prospect of federal stimulus money.

This is smart for a couple of reasons:

No one knows for sure yet just how much federal money will be made available to each school division — or what exactly it can be used for.

The federal money, regardless of its amount or intended uses, will be a temporary fix that will go away in a year or two.

School divisions, like families, businesses and other governmental entities, must begin tightening their belts in recognition that the current economic recession is likely to linger. Inevitably, this will mean cutting some jobs.

Isle of Wight’s school board, in the face of much hand-wringing from school supporters and even one of its own members, approved a 2010 budget that reduces spending by $1.9 million, or 2.7 percent, from the current fiscal year. It cuts 32 support positions and nixes a planned pay increase for school employees. This is the kind of fiscal discipline that is necessary in times like these.

If Isle of Wight County, which is experiencing modest enrollment growth, can find ways to tighten its belt, certainly Franklin and Southampton County, whose enrollments are down from a year ago, should be able to do so.