School board passed the buck to supervisors

Published 8:57 am Friday, March 25, 2011

by Herb DeGroft

Missed seeing a lot of you at the Wednesday evening Isle of Wight County Public Schools budget work session at Windsor Elementary School.

Largely we acquiesced in taking definitive action to cut some large and some smaller unnecessary items from the budget. It amazes me how we have fiscal responsibility, but regularly pass the buck to the Board of Supervisors.

How easy it is for Isle of Wight School Board members to forget or ignore their charge in the Virginia School Board Association manual for school board members to “control school finances.”

I wanted to respond to School Board member Dr. George Bradby’s statement about a bare-bones budget, how we had made significant cuts before and how the Board of Supervisors withholds money. Why should we reduce the budget when they will; I darn near threw up on him. Instead I stared at the ceiling and thought about “woe is me” and “chicken little.”

We did do a couple of good things. First, we passed a motion to lay off no one previously identified due to reduced funding, and we’ll find the revenue somewhere, including trying to prevail on the Board of Supervisors for more than level funding.

Second, we found reasonable amounts of funds for both Windsor High School and Smithfield High School band programs to bring them up to first-class appearance.

Items that we failed to gain approval on were:

• Eliminating the public information officer/communication specialist position to save $70,000 and have the county cover for both.

• Eliminating director/principal of New Directions Alternative School and have a site principal/assistant principal, saving $117,000.

• Giving up step/1.5 percent pay increases to employees to help prevent having to lay off any one at school building level to save a total of $590,000

• Reducing the technology budget by $409,000 due to spending hundreds of thousands less than budgeted in the past several years

• Eliminating $100,000 in textbook fund even if it is state money

• Going back to paper agendas, eliminating $4,500 annual electronic School Board fee.

There were other numerous items discussed, for example, lead teachers and contracting grass cutting and landscaping to save $20,000 in temporary worker costs.

A few more items may come up at the Monday, March 28, budget session, when we are to vote on the 2011-2012 budget.

In the meantime, anything you have you want to communicate, I urge you to do so directly with your board member.

HERB DEGROFT represents the Hardy District on the Isle of Wight County School Board. He can be reached at