IOW Schools budget finally on target

Published 9:58 am Wednesday, April 10, 2013

by Herb DeGroft

Reality is, finally, a budget that is truly on-target for Isle of Wight County Schools.

After seven years of voting against every IWCS budget because of significant issues I had with them, I voted yes for 2014’s. This only came after we as a board delved into it in detail, not just one member as has been the case in the past.

The present administration under Mrs. Perera’s leadership has the focus in the right place… prioritized in the classroom where learning takes place. Past “smoke ‘n mirrors” approach to budgeting is nowhere to be found in this budget that I can find. The board, as has the Superintendent, fulfilled their responsibility to Isle of Wight’s youth and to the Virginia Constitution to prepare a budget that is deemed adequate to meet their educational requirements for the coming year. This is our objective. Defiance has not been a part of our thought process

A look at recent budget numbers discloses some interesting facts.

Using 2009 as a baseline, when the local government (IoWC) provided $28.5 million, these local funding numbers are reality: 2010 reduced by 8.7 percent; 2011 reduced by 9.8 percent; 2012 reduced by 8 percent; 2013 reduced 2 percent. Remember, these are against the baseline when IoWC provided the most in local funds.

The increase for 2014 is 14.3 percent above 2013. The 2014 increase would amount to an average over these five years of 2.8 percent each… not unreasonable, I think, in reality. And, the 2014 IWCS budget is still 2 percent lower than 2009’s.

I regret the statements reportedly made by several Supervisors. Yes, they have a tough job because no one likes unnecessary tax increases (several of them in past have stated tax increase may be necessary this year however).

For years IoWC has relished its position as a lower taxing government. We taxpayers have enjoyed that, too. Reality asks “what if” the previous Boards of Supervisors had put the reduced amount of education funding monies in an “education rainy-day” account to be used when needed.

Reality says the amount needed for education was not going to remain stagnate. The 6-30-12 Comprehensive Financial Report for IoWC shows an Unassigned Fund Balance of $18,513,870. Is this where local revenue not provided to education in the past found a resting place? Education’s share since 2009 would be about $6 million today.

My point is the Virginia-assigned composite index assigned IoWC has relegated more to be paid for our youth’s education by local funds.

IoWC has not kept pace with that figure, in reality. Between the Unassigned Fund Balance, $18.5 million, and the ability to meet the burden through a tax increase of some amount, our IoWC Board of Supervisors can meet their constitutional responsibility, also, to our county youth’s education. A 10 cents/$100’s of assessed value increase will cost a $100,000 real estate owner $100 more in 2014; a $300,000 real estate owner will pay $300 more. In reality, not unreasonable. And as folks know, I am not a spendthrift.

My fellow IWCS Board members and I look forward to answering the Supervisors and citizens questions in getting the 2014 budget approved for our county youth’s educational needs.

I trust the Supervisors will be objective in their role as the funding body.

Herb DeGroft represents the Hardy District on the Isle of Wight County School Board.