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By Gary P. Hostutler
Bedford County School Board
This letter is written as a representative of District 4 on the Bedford County School Board, not as chairman.
Once again John Barnhart showed his disdain for the Bedford County Public Schools (BCPS) system with his column on February 5, 2014, in the Bedford Bulletin, titled “Nothing new about this.” Of course Mr. Barnhart failed to provide any facts to support his opinion regarding the use of reversion funds by the Bedford County School Board. Below are some facts:
• BCPS proposed level local funding in the 2013-14 budget which included $2.5 million to be set aside for the new middle school, so the school board was using 42 percent of the reversion funds for this project. The majority of remaining reversion funds were used for operations for providing a raise for employees ($1.1 million), funding the VRS ($450,000), health insurance increases ($450,000), bus purchases ($200,000), security cameras ($100,000) and $800,000 to replace funds that were provided by the federal jobs bill. Without the reversion funds these expenditures would need to be funded from Bedford County.
• The Board of Supervisors reduced local funding by $2.5 million in the 2013-14 school budget and set aside $1 million for the new school, so local funding for operations was reduced by $3.5 million from the prior year.
• The Board of Supervisors funded the 2012-13 BCPS budget with $2.5 million from their reserve fund to pay the state mandated demand that localities fund the VRS. All districts in the state faced this same issue and many were forced to raise taxes to pay for it. The problem is the VRS is a reoccurring expense and requires funding every year, not just in one budget. The annual local cost of the VRS is $4.1 million which the state used to absorb but has now passed down to the BCPS since 2011.
• BCPS historically ranks in the bottom 5 percent in per student spending in the state and our teachers’ salaries rank 5th or 6th compared to the other seven local districts. In addition the central office is 30 percent smaller than other districts of comparable size.
• BCPS chose a site for the new school that will cost $2 million less than a donated site just west of Bedford. In addition it will save millions over the life of the school by sharing transportation and facilities with Liberty High School.
Most people want a better life for their children and understand that education is the key to a higher standard of living. The Bedford County School Board is trying to help the next generation but certainly needs the support of parents and the community. The days of someone getting a basic high school diploma and working at one business their entire career are gone. Those educated with technical skills and advanced degrees will fare well in the future, of which all local school systems are working to improve.
I doubt that Mr. Barnhart will change his views of the Bedford County Public Schools as he does not let facts get in the way of his opinion. But the best thing for Bedford County is for the two boards to work together and communicate directly with each other. The name calling and cheap shots have to stop if we are going to be successful in attracting new businesses to Bedford County.