What’s up with the $6 million?

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By Ann Briscoe

    I attended the Bedford County Board of Supervisors’ meeting March 11. 
    One of the items on the agenda  under Action Items “Consideration of a request from the Bedford County School Board for a fund appropriation to contract with construction consulting service provider M. B. Khan (Resolution #R031014-02) “ was brought forth and pitched by Dr. Schuch and Mr. Hagler Chief Financial Officer for Bedford County Schools.  Also under the same agenda heading was another item “Consideration of Bedford School Matter from January 30, 2014 Joint Meeting.”
      Through the conversation that followed between the school board reps and the board of supervisors I figured out that the supervisors had been presented with a few options;  build a high school, build a middle school, or build a middle school that could be turned into a high school.  Along with these options it appears that a few smaller items were added; an addition to Bedford Elementary School and an addition to Forest Middle School. 
    It was brought up by a couple of the supervisors that the last two “smaller” items had never been an agreement to be a part of the new build.  When I say smaller items I mean just a few million dollars each (Bedford Elem School, $5 million and Forest Middle, $14 million).  Better watch out for the small stuff.
    After making a few inquiries I have found that the Bedford County School Board has already received the first installment of the $6 million per year (because of the city reversion back to just plain ole Bedford) this past July 2013.  The school board  included that $6 million in their operating budget.  The Supervisors understood that at least a large part of those funds would be used toward the building or associated costs of a new school.  They also understand that the upcoming installments of $^ million a year will go toward a new school. 
    I also attended the December 4, 2012, work session.  When funding for a new school came up, Chairman Hostutler spoke for a new middle school.  He also said that it was his understanding that the school board would receive approximately $6.5 million in additional state funds due to the reversion (this to mitigate the impact of reversion) for the next 15 years.  He also said that he hoped a portion (approximately 2.5 million) could be used for operation as the entire $6.5 million would not be needed for additional debt service for a “new middle school.”
    Back to the first item under Action Items “Consideration of a request from the Bedford County School Board for a fund appropriation to contract with construction consulting service provider M. B. Khan (Resolution #R031014-02).”  The school board is asking for funds for studies on such things as best placement of buildings and athletic fields, best use of space, etc.  They requested $100,000.  They were granted $55,000.  I couldn’t figure out what kind of studies were to be made when the decision hasn’t been made as to what exactly is to be built.
    The next Agenda Item “Consideration of Bedford School Matter from January 30, 2014, Joint Meeting” was a request that the Board of Supervisors make a commitment of funds on behalf of the unknown project.  The School Boards reps made no mention of the $6 million due to arrive in July of this year.  Nor was there mention of the efficiency study that everyone so anxiously awaits and has a great deal to do with the future of the Bedford school system.
     Bedford schools will have to make every effort to comply with this study at whatever the cost.  Just a small kink in the process.  The local newspaper prints that the School Board will be asking for an additional $4.4 million dollars for the upcoming year.  If that turns out to be true, that would be an additional $10 million dollars in the school budget.  Then I have to ask, what happens when the $6 million a year from Richmond stops?  Will the taxpayers have to fill that gap?
    In closing I would like to ask two questions.  What the heck is going on and is it time for a new superintendent?