SCPS reacts to proposed budget cuts

Published 10:00 am Thursday, May 23, 2024

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Southampton County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gwendolyn P. Shannon indicated May 13 that budget cuts the division is facing as a result of a proposed reduction in local funding are getting to the point where they are going to impact the quality of education at SCPS.
At the Southampton County School Board’s May 13 meeting, SCPS Director of Finance Joy Carr shared an update on the fiscal year 2024-25 school operating budget in light of cuts the Southampton County Board of Supervisors made to the proposed FY 2024-25 county budget in the effort to reduce the rate of tax increases.

To school board members, Carr said, “On April the 10th, Dr. Shannon presented your approved budget to the Southampton County Board of Supervisors. In order to balance the budget, we needed an increase of $2,147,625 in local funds.

“The Board of Supervisors not only denied our request for an increase but also recommended to cut our local funding $596,928 below our level funding,” Carr said. “This action was approved as part of the county’s proposed budget, and it will be up for final approval on (June 4).”

Carr noted to school board members that they had been given a list of possible school budget cuts that totaled $2,744,553.

“This includes the $2,147,625 that we had requested plus the additional $596,928 that they cut us below level funding,” she said.


Carr explained that the division was required to provide a reduced categorical budget for publication of the county’s proposed budget, so she and her staff used this list to reduce the associated categories.

“So in this scenario, we cut five vacant instructional positions, plus all the additional positions that were requested as part of your approved budget. We also cut salary increases from 5 to 3% across board with the exception of the career steps on the teacher scale.”

She said that other significant cuts included $500,000 for the mold mitigation and $506,050 for software programs.

“This scenario does retain the increase in utilities and fuel costs, and these are items that we feel like we need to leave in the budget because of the rising costs,” she said. “Once we’ve received the final local revenue after the (June 4) Board of Supervisors meeting, we will present to you a revised budget at the June school board meeting for your approval.”

Carr said she will have to start developing a line-item budget to present to the school board based on the possible cuts, and she invited input on that process from board members.


School Board Chair Dr. Deborah Goodwyn noted that Vice Chair Christopher Smith Sr. and Board Member Denise Bunn constitute the school board’s Budget Committee, and she asked if they had any comments they would like to share.

“I think that we met our charge,” Smith said. “The constitution of the state of Virginia charges us as a school board to develop the best possible school board budget that we possibly can for stakeholders in Southampton County, and I think we’ve put that on the table.”

He said now the board has to deal with things that it has to cut because the division is being below level funded.

Bunn said, “I agree with Mr. Smith. We’ve put together a budget looking at what the needs of the division are and what we would need to provide the best education that we can for the students in the county.”

She indicated that it is always disheartening when the school board has to come back to the table and say the things that it knows the division needs or the things asked for because it knows they would benefit the students and the staff cannot be obtained.

“We then go back to the drawing table and figure out where to make these cuts and make it work,” she said.

Goodwyn said that if any board members have any suggestions for Carr regarding potential budget cuts, they will funnel them through Bunn and Smith, “because I’m sure there will be a Budget Committee meeting.”

Bunn said, “Keep in mind with that, on top of that amount that we’re below level funding, we also have to absorb the increase in energy costs, increase in fuel costs, so it’s kind of like a double whammy to do both, because we’re absorbing the inflation piece of it along with taking cuts.”

Goodwyn asked Shannon if she had any comments.

“Well, I just would like to say that we are going to have to increase class sizes because of the budget cuts,” Shannon said. “And year after year, we’re talking about teacher pay increases or us being competitive with surrounding school divisions, but if we’re never fully funded, then it’s going to be hard for us to continue to remain competitive with surrounding school divisions. 

“And we recommended a 5% budget increase, and we now are going to have to reduce that 5% down to a 3% budget increase if we’re not asked to reduce the budget anymore,” she added.

Any increase at this point comes due to increases in school funding at the state and federal levels.

Southampton County Chief Financial Officer Lynette C. Lowe confirmed that the proposed local funding portion of the school division’s advertised $40 million 2024-25 budget equals $12,007,311, with $9,573,046 for operations and $2,434,265 for debt service.

Of the budget cuts, Shannon said, “It really is getting to the point where it’s going to impact the quality of instruction. Year after year we make requests, and year after year we’re not fully funded. So we’ll do the best that we can like we always do with whatever funds that we have.”

Board Member Brandon Rodgers said that he noticed the additional special education positions that were originally proposed in the school budget were among the recommended cuts Carr shared with the board.

“Are we going to be able to meet our legal expectations for special education — if we don’t have those positions included — around caseload size for special ed?” he asked.

Shannon said, “So I will say that there are some exclusions, there are some waivers that we may be able to request, but honestly, I don’t know. Even this year we’ve had a tough time trying to meet some of the guidelines with special education, and that was because of, again, caseload, the number of students as compared to the number of teachers who were certified to teach special education. So like I said, we’re just going to continue to do the best that we can.”

She explained that the division is up front with the Virginia Department of Education on the challenges it is facing, and the VDOE recognizes it.

“They are aware of the situation regarding the teacher shortage and caseloads, and we have been working with our families also on some of the deficits,” she said.