Contributions to pension fund pinch school divisions’ budgets

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, January 18, 2012

FRANKLIN—Efforts to make the Virginia Retirement System more solvent will result in more than $2.5 million in shortfalls for school districts in Franklin and Southampton and Isle of Wight counties.

Isle of Wight County will have to pay $1.8 million in additional retirement expenses, which will offset about a $300,000 increase in state funding for 2012-2013, said Isle of Wight Schools’ spokeswoman Katherine Goff.

Goff said the school system is working on next year’s budget and has held four community meetings.

Superintendent Charles Turner said Southampton County Public Schools is looking at a $912,000 shortfall based on the retirement increases.

“The retirement funding is a definite right now,” Turner said. “We’re still in the preliminary stages of preparing the budget.”

Franklin Schools’ numbers were unavailable because Superintendent Michelle Belle said the district was in the “very preliminary stages” of the budget process.

“It will definitely impact (the budget), but it could be worse,” Belle said of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan to require state and local governments to contribute more to the state retirement plan.

The Franklin School Board will have a public hearing to discuss the budget at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at City Hall.

McDonnell’s proposed budget calls for a significant amount of education funding be spent on helping to bolster the retirement system, according to the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

“The governor’s desire to fund our retirement system is important, but it should not compromise the funding of other more important public education expenditures which directly affect the quality of instruction, such as the recruitment and retention of excellent teachers through raising teachers’ salaries’,” said VASS President Pam Moran.

A group of superintendents met Tuesday at the Library of Virginia in Richmond to help deliver this message to policymakers.

The superintendents also made recommendations that included greater flexibility in scheduling school calendars, more flexibility in meeting state academic requirements, the use of multiple measures of student achievement instead of one standardize test and other suggestions.