Local funding awarded to aid Southampton schools

Published 7:57 am Friday, May 1, 2015

The Southampton County Board of Supervisors approved at Monday evening’s board meeting the appropriation of $236,752.82 in revenue from various sources and programs to Southampton County Public Schools.

County Administrator Michael W. Johnson said that the increase in local funding will not help cushion the blow of the almost $900,000 deficiency in state funding, though, as it is earmarked for specific expenditures outside of the operating budget, such as tuition, day care, insurance, health care and other academic costs.

The amount also includes a 21st Century Community Learning Center grant to establish a program that provides students with academic enrichment opportunities, counseling, character education, entrepreneurial education, drug and violence prevention programming, art, music, recreational activities and technology education.

“The state revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year is being managed by the school board and administration through expenditure reductions, and the appropriations approved (Monday) night and in February won’t affect that,” Johnson said.

The February resolution to which Johnson referred appropriated $127,388.06 in local revenue to Southampton schools. Of that amount, $101,101.63 was donated to the school for various charitable purchases, including a piano and continued work on the high school’s track.

This coincides with the two boards working toward the adoption of the budget for the 2016 fiscal year. The problem regarding lack of state funding remains, as the projected revenue falls short of the Virginia Department of Education’s total enrollment projection of 2,721 students within the Southampton County School District. With said population, the school would have pulled in more than $18.2 million in state revenue.

However, February’s data showed student enrollment at only 2,607 students, 114 fewer than had been projected. This translates to a total shortfall of $934,097.

Following that February meeting, Johnson said that Southampton Superintendent Dr. Alvera J. Parrish and the rest of the school board assured the county that the aforementioned shortfall was not expected, and offered additional means by which to compensate. To his understanding, much of the deficit has been — or will be — absorbed by the school’s decision to not fill vacant positions.

The latest data, compiled in mid-April, was more favorable to the county and the school, as it counted an additional 38 students and adjusted the shortfall to $892,000.

“Unquestionably, the biggest challenge with this budget is how Southampton County Public Schools can manage with $892,000 less in state funding. If local revenues were available to plug the gap. I’d have already included them. But they’re not,” Johnson said in a letter to the board of supervisors leading up toward the monthly budgetary meeting. “Any additional increase in local funding for the schools will have to be supported by a new revenue stream — code speak for increasing taxes. That’s a policy decision that the board will need to consider as we progress through the budget adoption process.”

Simply put, Johnson said that state revenue is decreasing while local revenue is increasing.

“Actual state revenue for Southampton County Public Schools was $19.35 million in FY 2009; a total of $17.27 million is projected in FY 2016, a net decrease of $2.08 million. Conversely, $9.23 million of local revenue was appropriated to Southampton County Schools in FY 2009; $11.52 million is proposed in FY 2016, a net annual increase of $2.29 million.

“You see where this is going, and, unfortunately, it is not sustainable,” he said. “The county simply does not have enough resources to continue making up for the decreases in state funding.”