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School budget cut by $2.5M

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County School Board won’t get all the funding it was hoping to receive from the county. This means school board members will have to find cuts to their proposed $106 million budget.
    Bedford County’s supervisors are proposing to transfer $38 million to the school division in the next fiscal year. In addition, they are proposing to hold $1 million in a general fund reserve, earmarked for future school division debt service.
    The supervisors reached this decision during a Thursday evening work session that was attended by the school board. According to District 3 school board member Dr. John Hicks, the school board had called a special meeting so that members could attend as a group.
    On March 11, Dr. Douglas Schuch, superintendent of schools, had presented his budget to the supervisors which called for a transfer that was only slightly higher than the $39 million place holder figure that Deputy County Administrator Frank Rogers had placed in the budget. Rogers said that this was equal to last year’s transfer, minus $2.5 million from the county’s fund balance. This money was intended as a one-time transfer. When the school board met, after Dr. Schuch’s presentation, members added $2 million to the school budget, bringing the request for local funds to $41.4 million.
    During the discussion, District 4 Supervisor John Sharp worried that backing off $2.5 million from the school board’s budget request would cut into the operating budget.
    “This is not being taken from the operating budget,” replied Board Chairman Steve Arrington. “This is being held in reserve. It’s still part of school funding.”
    “It’s still here,” he added. “It’s not going anywhere.”
    Arrington said that the main challenge will be to build the new middle school.
    Sharp is also concerned about vocational education. He said that 38 percent to 42 percent of the county’s high school grads go to college and asked what happens to the rest.
    “We need some more career training for these young people in crafts,” he said. “I’m very concerned about the young people in this county.”
    Sharp added that he didn’t want to jeopardize the 3 percent raises for teachers in the school board’s budget.
    Arrington assured Sharp that that won’t be the case.
    After finishing their discussion on the school budget, the supervisors decided to fund a truancy prevention specialist requested by Juvenile and Domestic Relations Judge Louis Harrison. This specialist will focus on elementary school aged children. Creating this position will cost $55,000.
    The supervisors voted to advertise a public hearing on the budget and tax rates for Monday, April 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bedford Science and Technology Center. The advertised budget is $89 million and no changes in tax rates are proposed. Advertising a budget and tax rates sets their upper limits. They can be lowered, but they cannot be raised.