Isle of Wight School Board reduces budget

Published 2:12 pm Wednesday, May 26, 2021

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The Isle of Wight County School Board voted unanimously May 13 to approve a fiscal year 2021-22 budget that featured some specific cuts adding up to $500,000 to help accommodate the county’s goal to avoid a 4-cent real estate tax increase.

Isle of Wight County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said that after attending the previous week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, it looked as though the county was planning to cut the school budget by $500,000.

Assistant County Administrator Donald Robertson confirmed May 17 that the Board of Supervisors, which also met May 13, did indeed make the cut, among others, ultimately adopting an $84.22 million general fund budget with no real estate tax increase.

“We did not have to raise taxes this year, and we will reevaluate the need for a tax increase when we begin work on next year’s budget,” County Administrator Randy Keaton said.

Thornton noted to the school board that the Board of Supervisors considered a variety of places it could find revenues to avoid the tax increase. He said that $500,000 is approximately 1 cent in tax, and the board asked the school system if it would be possible to make the cut.

He then explained to school board members how he and his staff were thinking of doing it.

“What we’re recommending is we haven’t started the bus leases that are in the operational budget, and as you know, we’re asking for new buses to be paid for by the CARES fund, so we can afford not to start the lease,” he said. “But we had a conversation with them that if that money isn’t put back, then we won’t have a lease continuing and purchasing buses on a rotation, which is vital, and they understand that.”

Thornton said the other $100,000 he and his staff wanted to take was from maintenance.

“That was the new coordinator position in maintenance,” he said, noting there is not an immediate need for that position at this point. 

“So we felt like those were two safe areas to cut in the budget, and we want to work with the Board of Supervisors,” he said.

Smithfield District board member and Vice Chair Denise Tynes confirmed with Thornton that the Board of Supervisors planned to put the $500,000 back into the school budget sometime in the future, maybe next year, when the school division is not coming fresh out of a pandemic and experiencing some savings because of CARES Act funds.

“It seemed to be a general understanding that that’s a necessity to put that lease money back so that we continue to buy buses on a rotation,” Thornton said.

Another board member also brought up the maintenance coordinator position, asking if it would be revisited as the school system gets closer to needing it, and Thornton said yes.

Robertson confirmed the revised amount of local funding Isle of Wight County Schools received in its 2021-22 budget was $26,711,613.

This amount was reflected in the operating budget summary provided in the May 13 school board meeting documents, contributing to a $69.39 million total.