IOW school board OKs $63.5 million budget plan

Published 8:41 am Monday, April 1, 2013


ISLE OF WIGHT—From the three budget options facing the Isle of Wight County School Board on Thursday, the members all chose door number two: a $63.5 million operating budget for fiscal year 2013-14.

The first option was $63.7 million, the same as proposed on March 1 by IWCS Superintendent Katrise Perera. At that time, a $5.2 budget shortfall was projected. The third option was $61.6 million, but would have included up to 65 job losses and a weeks worth of furloughs for all remaining employees.

“The teacher and assistant cuts will be felt,” said Laura Abel, assistant superintendent for Curriculum/Instruction and Administration. “We could continue to move forward. But I can’t minimize the impact cuts would have on classrooms.”

“We cannot afford to cut teachers. We owe it to our children to keep the good teachers we have,” said Windsor District member Julia Perkins. Several people in the audience murmured ‘thank you.’

“The only option would be option one,” Smithfield District board member Denise Tynes, said initially.

“I won’t even discuss option three, it’s not in my book,” Newport District member Kent Hildebrand said on learning that no teaching jobs would be lost with the first two plans. He later made the motion for the board to adopt option two and eliminate the auto shop class at Smithfield High School.

The second option asks for $32.6 million from the county, almost $300,000 less than the first plan. That, one of the board members suggested, could mean a 12-cent increase in the tax rate.

The school system also budgeted $25.6 million from the state, and $4.2 million in federal aid.

Financial Services Manager Christina Berta outlined student activity fees to make up for state revenue losses. These charges would apply to art, band, chorus, drama, lockers, JROTC, high school student parking and physical education and raise $67,890. Athletic fees could also create more revenue.

Hildebrand defended the proposed fees as a way to show the county’s Board of Supervisors that the school system is “taking proactive steps.”

The board’s decision came after one and a half hours of discussion. Previous to that, the county courtroom was overflowing with parents, teachers and staff to speak about the budget.

“I don’t think the board is ready to vote on the budget,” said Isle of Wight Education Association President Stephanie Bailey. “There’s nothing in it for teachers.”

Perkins later acknowledged that salary increases “just did not seem a possibility.”

Aaron Millikin, who said he has a child at Westside Elementary School in Smithfield, said he believes the schools are doing “the best they can with the money they have.” He urged people to pick up their phones and call or “get in front of the supervisors” to support the board’s proposed budget.