Council to discuss superintendent’s carryover request

Published 10:12 am Monday, August 13, 2018

On Monday, Franklin’s City Council will consider a request by Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Tamara Sterling to recapture unspent funds from the 2017-2018 school year.

According to City Manager R. Randy Martin, Sterling made her request on Aug. 7 after informing Martin that the division had received additional unexpected state aid in the amount of $391,211.54 on June 28, two days before the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The division has also identified several other sources of revenues it received during this past school year in excess of expenditures, bringing the total amount of available carryover funds as of June 30 to $760,391.36.

Sterling has proposed to use the funds for one-time capital expenditures, totaling around $600,000. During the Franklin City School Board’s July meeting, Sterling said that some of these capital expenditures would include repaving the parking lot at Franklin High School, adding exterior lights around the school, renovating the teachers’ lounges at each of the division’s three schools, repainting all three sites, upgrading FHS’s electrical wiring and purchasing additional Chromebooks to further its 1:1 computer to student initiative. Additional proposed expenditures include adding a security door at Franklin High School, a library initiative, and purchasing a new school bus. Pending council approval, the division hopes to complete as many of these projects as possible by or near the start of school after Labor Day.

In a memorandum to the council members, Martin recommended that the council authorize a portion of the carryover funds, not to exceed $400,000, for use by the school division during the 2018-2019 school year.

“I am encouraged that the School Division has embraced city advice to utilize any approved carryover funds solely for capital or other one-time (non-recurring) expenditures,” Martin said in his memo. “However, I do recommend Council defer a final decision on any funds significantly in excess of the unexpected state funding received at year end until the auditor has had a chance to review and confirm the School Division’s end-of-year financials. This is a practice utilized by the City for the past several years and has served all parties well, and should be continued in my opinion.”

Allowing the division to appropriate only the additional state funding, in Martin’s estimation, would allow the division to fund approximately two-thirds of the requested expenditures.

Ordinarily, Section 22.1-100 of the Code of Virginia would require school divisions to return unexpended state funds to the Commonwealth at the close of each fiscal year. However, according to a memorandum to all division superintendents from the Virginia Department of Education’s superintendent of public instruction, James F. Lane, the General Assembly’s 2018 amendments to the 2017 Appropriation Act overrides this code section. Therefore, divisions that have met required local effort and local match for fiscal year 2017-2018 are permitted to carry forward to fiscal year 2018-2019 any remaining state Direct Aid fund balances are are unexpended as of June 30.

In other business, Martin also intends to update the council on the third-party independent assessment of the city’s utility meter reading and billing, the field work for which was completed on Monday, Aug. 6.