Council denies FCPS carryover funding request

Published 2:03 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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There was significant disagreement among the members of the Franklin City Council on Monday, Feb. 12, regarding a request by Franklin City Public Schools for carryover funding to support three capital projects.

The council ultimately voted 4-3 to deny the school division its request to grant back to it more than $582,800 that had been budgeted to FCPS but was not allocated to any project by the division and thus reverted back to the city.

“This is a travesty,” Ward 4 Councilman Dr. Linwood Johnson said of the 4-3 vote after having made the motion that the council grant the school division the carryover funding for the trio of projects.

Voting in favor of the motion were Johnson, Ward 5 Councilwoman and Vice Mayor Wynndolyn H. Copeland, and Mayor Robert “Bobby” Cutchins.

Voting in opposition to the motion were Ward 6 Councilwoman Jessica G. Banks, Ward 3 Councilman Gregory McLemore, Ward 2 Councilman Ray Smith and Ward 1 Councilman Mark R. Kitchen.


FCPS Director of Operations Dr. Clint Walters shared with council members Monday how the school division anticipated addressing three capital projects with the carryover funds. He was accompanied by FCPS Superintendent Dr. Carlton Carter.

“The three actions that we’re looking to take — we are hoping to replace the S.P. Morton (Elementary School) HVAC system as part of Phase 1, and upgrade Franklin High School’s auditorium’s audio/visual equipment, and purchase one diesel bus,” Walters said. 

For the SPM HVAC renovation, Walters noted that the school division was requesting $399,621.25 in carryover.

His slideshow presentation highlighted that the City Council adopted a resolution at its Nov. 27, 2023, meeting stating in part that “the City Council of the city of Franklin, Virginia, has determined that there is an urgent need to make capital improvements to the city’s school

facilities, specifically upgrades to the HVAC system at S.P. Morton.”

He made clear that FCPS has also sought out alternative forms of funding in addition to requesting money from the city.

His presentation noted that the total cost for Phase 1 is $630,314.50, which will be achieved through braided funding as follows:

  • $399,621.25 in carryover funding;
  • $189,094.35 in SCAP Grant funding; and 
  • $41,598.90 in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) III funding.

For the FHS auditorium A/V upgrades, the school division was requesting $38,220 in carryover.

Walters’ presentation noted that this money will allow for the purchase of a wall-mounted projector to be placed at the rear of the auditorium and an electric screen to be placed above the stage.

“This will significantly improve the line of sight for folks who come to the auditorium for various presentations and increase the visible area with that screen,” he said.

For the purchase of one diesel school bus, the school division was requesting $145,014 in carryover.

“Franklin has 16 buses in its fleet,” Walters said. “Of those 16, 10 will be 15 years old or older at the end of this school year. I know that you’re aware we’re receiving three electric buses. We just received the phone call last week, in fact, that one of those buses is ready for delivery. As part of that grant agreement, we have to destroy an old, traditionally fueled bus.

“So when those three electric buses come, we still have seven buses in the fleet that are 15 years old or older,” he continued, “so we’re requesting funding to start the cycle of purchasing buses every two to three years so that we’re continuing to upgrade our fleet as time goes on.”


When Walters opened the floor to questions, Banks asked about the bus situation. 

Jessica G. Banks

“Franklin is a smaller city, and with the (Average Daily Membership) ADM constantly kind of decreasing as I’ve heard from Franklin City Public School Board, I’m trying to rationalize the priority for a bus,” she said. “I’m sorry, that’s just me. If Dr. Carter would like to speak to that…”

Carter said, “When we had a transition of superintendents, the ADM went down to 945. Now the ADM is back up to 970 and climbing, so the school system is gaining students again, and so we also need the travel for field trips and also for sporting events.”

He noted that those trips can involve travel beyond the eight square miles of the city and said the school division has significant needs leading to the need for buses.

McLemore asked if FCPS has any vans, and Carter said it has about two or three.

“Because when I joined the debate team on a trip to Glen Allen, we took a bus when we could have easily all been accommodated in a van,” McLemore said. “So I understand sometimes it’s not just in the city, it’s going out of town, but it doesn’t always necessarily require a big bus to go out of town. An additional van would cost significantly less than the $145,000 that a bus would cost.”

“Or to rent a charter bus,” Banks said, to which McLemore agreed.

McLemore then switched subjects briefly to ask Carter about school accreditation status.

Later, Banks returned to the subject of the bus and put the FCPS funding request in the context of the school division’s roofing project.

“The only issue that I have is that the city, obviously, took out a loan to help with the roofing project for Franklin City Public Schools, and now there’s this carryover that, in my opinion, probably could have gone towards that,” she said. “So the rationale for a bus (when) that money could have been allocated to your roofs is a problem for me when the school system continues to come to the city for money after being allotted $4.3 million by the city … So I don’t know if I’m wrong and anyone else can correct me, but the rationalization is just not adding up to me. So that’s all I have to say.”

Gregory McLemore

McLemore said he agreed with Banks.

“I have been here 13 years, well before you guys got here,” he said to Carter and Walters. “This is almost like every year there’s always a carryover. Now I’m no math guy, but it seems to me carryover is money that wasn’t used in the budget, this is kind of like extra money. Well, we can give it to you this year, and then next year there’ll be another carryover, money you won’t use, and you’ll want that money, and this just has been a never-ending cycle of taking money. If we give you the money, you’re supposed to need it and use it; it shouldn’t be carried over.”

He said, “It’s just our fiscal responsibility to take care of the city’s money, and as the councillady said, we went out and borrowed money to help fund these roofs and things and —” 

Banks interjected, “ — with the promise that they would look into other avenues to contribute. So if we have at least $600,000 to carry over, where is the contribution that was promised to the roofing?”

Carter said, “There was $1 million that was paid back to the city for the roofs, so that was the contribution.”

“Yeah, it was,” Cutchins said. “Personally, I think the way I feel, I would like to see council move forward with adopting this and going forward. We’re in budget season, we’re going to look at things really hard, but I think we’re OK to be able to adopt. That’s my opinion.”

Johnson agreed with Cutchins.

Linwood Johnson

“One of the things I will say about carryover, there are going to be carryovers every year,” Johnson said. “The school system does not have a treasurer. The treasurer is the city treasurer. There’s always going to be a carryover, that’s general business. That’s how a city works.”

Banks said, “I’m sorry, I don’t agree with that. I don’t think that every year (there) should be carryover.”

“Well, I can’t help if you don’t understand that,” Johnson said, to which Banks replied, “Oh, I understand.”

To Johnson, McLemore said, “Really, please explain it to me.”

Banks asked Johnson, “How can you make a definite stance to say every year there’s going to be carryover? What’s the need for extra?”

Carter was given an opportunity to explain the school division’s process that has led to it having carryover.

“We want to always stay fiscally responsible, so we always leave a little extra,” he said. “Now I cannot speak to the former administration, but I promise you, with three aging (school) buildings, we won’t have this issue next year where there will be carryover because there are plenty of things that need to be fixed at those three schools. So there won’t be a carryover next year, Councilman McLemore, because we will use that money…”

“I believe you,” McLemore said. “You can always find things to spend money on.”

“No, no, no,” Carter said. “We have aging buildings, and they’re over 60 years old, some of them, and so there will be plenty to spend on.”

“But you ask for a budget, you ask for money,” McLemore said. “I would think you’re taking these things into consideration, we grant you that budget, we grant you that amount of money, you use that amount of money, not come back and say, ‘Well, we didn’t use this, but we’d like to carry it over to next year.’”

Carter said, “Councilman McLemore, there will not be any money for you to debate next year.”

Robert “Bobby” Cutchins

Cutchins said, “I think the last time, we paused this and brought it back tonight, one of my feelings was where were we going to be at with our budget for our taxpayers. I feel pretty good right now with everything, so I have no problem with going forward. Next year will be a new year, new day. I’ve been up here seven years, and I’ve seen the carryovers every year —”

“And the borrowing every year,” McLemore interjected, before Cutchins finished his statement to Carter by saying, “— and I can’t speak for the past before you came. I commend you with what you’re doing.”

Then Johnson said, “Mr. Mayor, I move that we grant the three projects with the carryover funding,” and Copeland seconded.

The vote proceeded, and McLemore noted, “The nays have it.”


“The nays have it,” Cutchins said to the council. “So we’re not going to carry … you’re going to take everything away from them?”

Banks asked Cutchins, “What changed? Because you were kind of hesitant at the last meeting.”

Cutchins later said, “My only purpose of pausing this at the last meeting was to see where we were going to be at for $150,000, $200,000 to keep the taxpayers from having to pay increased taxes. That was my only purpose.”

McLemore said the vote was done and that the council should move on to the next agenda item.

Wynndolyn H. Copeland

Copeland began to speak up with a series of questions about the carryover money.

“The money was allocated for (FCPS), correct?” she said.

“Yes,” Johnson said.

“In the budget,” she added. “And they’re just asking for their money?”

“That’s right,” Johnson said.

But then McLemore said, “So they’re saying, ‘We didn’t use the money that we asked for, so now let us have it, and we’ll find something else to do with it.’”

Copeland said, “But the money was allocated for them, correct, City Manager Jarratt?”

“Vice Mayor, in answer to your question, $4.3 million was allocated in the previous fiscal year for Franklin City Public Schools,” Jarratt said. “At the completion of the audit, there was a total of $800,000 remaining. The previous budget amendment moved … just over $300,000 into the current fiscal year to pay for purchase orders and projects that were not completed.

“The remaining funds that total $582,000 were not allocated to any project, and the way it works is that if they have remaining funds, it reverts to the city of Franklin unless you grant it back to them,” Jarratt continued. “So they have asked to utilize the $582,000 for the three projects, as they just described, which would be Budget Amendment 2024-13. Based on the current vote, that would fail. But this was part of the initial $4.3 million.”

Copeland said, “And I’d just like to say it’s not about us, it’s not about personalities, it’s about our children.”

“That’s correct,” Johnson said.

“That’s the bottom line — it’s about our children,” Copeland said, later adding, “It’s about the teachers too, having a safe environment.”

Cutchins told Carter that he has one other option since the request for the carryover funding failed.

“It’s going in the budget — request more money,” Cutchins said.

“That’s right,” Johnson said. “Request more money and get it, because this is a travesty.”

“It is,” Copeland said. “It really is.”

McLemore said to request the $500,000 in the budget and then use it.

“The travesty to me is we’re still talking about a vote that’s been made,” McLemore said.

Cutchins, who was in the middle of a comment as McLemore said that, continued by saying, “The vote has been done. I’ve explained. The bus was the controversial issue, and I’ve had a problem with buses all along, but the city does not need the money, so that’s why I felt we didn’t need to take it back.”

“And the children need it,” Copeland said. “And the staff.”

Carter then was given an opportunity to respond to the council’s decision.

“Just currently right now, City Council, the septic tanks at J.P. King (Jr. Middle School) are broken, and so we have to use Porta Potties — Porta Potties,” he said. “So you just voted down something that we have …”

“Hold on, wait a minute,” McLemore said. “Did I hear you say that part of that money was going for septic tanks?”

Carter said, “But I’m telling you right now that we need the carryover money because we have aging buildings, sir. We have aging buildings.”

“But you said buses, you said A/V stuff for an auditorium, and you said something else,” McLemore said. “You didn’t say nothing about no septic tanks.”

“But things happen with aging buildings, so you cannot predict,” Carter said.

McLemore said, “Then Mr. Carter, you say, ‘We want to use this money for septic tanks because we’re using Porta Potties.’”

Carter said that more things will continue to break down as the buildings age. 

“Right now, we can’t even keep the children warm in the middle school, and I just want you to know that,” Carter said.

Copeland said, “He asked for HVAC. Yeah, the children are freezing and the staff.”

Ray Smith

Smith took a moment to share his thoughts on what he believes should be a priority for the city and the school division.

“When I got on this council three years ago, one of my main objectives was to build a new school,” he said. “I talked to everybody that would listen to me, and nobody would listen to me. We’re going to continue to do this after I’m gone, after all of us are gone. We need to build a new school. We can spend $30 million for a courthouse, but we can’t build a … school. It’s crazy, it’s ridiculous, and it should be changed.”

Before the carryover request agenda item was closed, Banks had one more question for Carter in reference to his comment about being unable to keep the children warm at JPK.

“How long have the children been freezing?” she said. “I’m curious, how long? That’s my last question. How long have they been freezing? So it was determined by the carryover if they were going to continue to freeze or not?”

Carter said, “We still have to fix the HVAC systems that you just voted down. So that means …”

“My question is, ‘How long have they been freezing?’” Banks said.

Carter said, “Ma’am, the HVAC systems just failed about four weeks ago.”

“Four weeks ago?” Banks said.

Carter said, “Yeah, and we’ve been patching them.”

He noted that it is an old HVAC system.

“The schools are old, and they’re going to continue to fail,” he said.

Banks noted again that Carter said “four weeks ago,” prompting one more response from Carter.

“We’ve been patching it, we’ve been patching it, and we’re going to have to continue to patch it, and so when we have another cold spell, I’ll just say, ‘Look at the tape,’” he said.