FCPS ‘tightening belt’ to handle $157,000 reduction

Published 8:40 am Friday, May 29, 2015

Facing a shortfall of approximately $157,000 due to a drop of 41 students from the state’s projection, the Franklin City Public School Division has had to learn to make do with less.

The most significant factor of the cuts will be summer school, said Kelvin Edwards, the director of Organizational Accountability and Performance Management. Also, any school-funded field trips were either cancelled or not scheduled. The division put a freeze on speeding back in December in anticipation of this reduction from the Virginia Department of Education.

Earlier this month, Superintendent Dr. Willie J. Bell had requested the remaining balance of the carryover money earmarked for the 2015-16 budget. In 2014, Bell had received $119,000 of the $462,645 total to help pay for teacher preparation work done in July, as well as funding a contractor to work on the Memorandum of Understanding with the Board of Education.

However, the Franklin City Council denied providing the remaining balance, with some members of council not being comfortable granting the full amount requested — fearing that Bell would be back for additional funds during the 2015-16 budget year. Proposing an alternative of just funding the shortfall, that too was shot down because other members of council felt that the school division’s full request should have been met.

On May 21, Bell told members of the Franklin City Public School Board that he may go back to council in June to ask for it again, should the system be in dire straits.

Responding to questions from Will Councill and Edna King, Bell said the administration was monitoring the situation and would have reports by the end of May and mid-June related to where expenditures were to revenue.

Director of Finance Rachel Yates said that as of April, 75 percent of the budget had already been spent. Bell said that he didn’t anticipate any additional carryover being left over from this year’s budget.

In lieu of receiving the carryover money, Edwards said the summer school schedule was reduced to a four-day week in an effort to maintain funding for the successful completion of the year.

Any field trips taken by students during the winter and spring months were due to fundraising efforts from the students, staff, and also from local charities and foundations.

“Field trips provide students the value of having a ‘real world experience’ that is not offered in the classroom and Franklin City Public Schools is committed to the whole child experience,” Edwards said. “Unfortunately, the budget crunch the division is experiencing has forced the division to cut field trips for our students. Money once spent on field trips is being spent to help remediate students for academic success.”

Edwards said the budget freeze has also taken its toll since December on every department in the system, as spending has been minimal. No funds were allocated without prior approval. He was still confident that the division was providing for the students’ needs.

“However, we maintained high quality service without funding,” Edwards said. “It has required us to think more outside the lines and be creative.”

Summer school is slated to begin on July 6, and the division is forward thinking.

“As we began preparation for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning with the summer instructional program, we wanted to increase our focus on academics to decrease summer loss,” Edwards said.