Citizens plead for school funds

Published 12:02 pm Saturday, May 2, 2009

ISLE OF WIGHT—Concerns for the Isle of Wight County Schools’ fiscal 2010 budget steered citizens’ comments at a public hearing Thursday.

The Board of Supervisors called a special session to allow citizens to give input on a proposed $141 million general operating and capital budget. No other business was conducted.

“I represent many voices this evening,” said Amy Jones, legislative chairperson for the Carrollton Elementary School PTA. Jones, who has two children in third grade, said that the county’s school system was one of the primary reasons she and her husband moved to the area.

“Our (school) board has worked tirelessly. As much as we have sometimes worked against each other, I am very proud of the budget… . I urge you to fund it fully,” said Jones.

Stephanie Bailey, president of the Isle of Wight Education Association, also urged board members to approve the school board budget without additional cuts. “Whatever it takes to maintain our already-strained school system, then let’s do that,” said Bailey.

School board member Herb DeGroft, who represents the Hardy District, brought attention to a state law that authorizes an appropriating body to approve a school board budget by lump sum or by category. A budget approved as a lump sum allows funds to be transferred from one category to another.

DeGroft encouraged supervisors to approve the school budget by category and to make decisions that will “help improve the financial management of the citizens’ dollars that are provided for their education.”

The school board’s proposed $61.7 million budget for 2010 reflects a decrease of about 5 percent from fiscal 2009.

Isle of Wight resident Pete Greene spoke at the hearing for himself and “several retirees in my neighborhood” whom he said the economic recession has hit especially hard.

When Greene retired on a fixed income at the age of 65, he was paying about $70 per month for insurance. He now pays approximately $300 per month for the same plan and said, “I might be priced out of insurance.”

Urging low taxes, Greene told the board: “Keep in mind, we don’t want to freeze the retirees out. I have two friends who are considering moving out.”

Supervisors are scheduled to discuss and vote on the fiscal 2010 budget at their next regular meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday.