School budget OK'd

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Class sizes up, take-home pay down for teachers

    There will be fewer teachers, larger class sizes and lower take-home pay.
    Maintenance will go unfunded, math specialists won’t be hired and the ninth grade class won’t be carrying their textbooks to school in a tablet.
    The 2014-2015 budget for Bedford County Public Schools is now adopted and it’s far less than what the school board had hoped to be able to spend.
    The $103 million budget is more than $500,000 less than the current fiscal year budget for the school system; local funding is down $1 million. In all, the school board had to cut $3.8 million from its original proposed budget, including funding for 40 slots in the Virginia Preschool Initiative program.
    Forty-six teachers and staff have been cut from that budget; staffing standards were raised by one pupil per class at all age levels. Nineteen teachers were cut because of lower     “It’s disappointing that we have to cut teaching positions and increase class sizes,” Board chairman Gary Hostutler said after the meeting.
    Much of the savings from the original proposed budget is based on changes in the school system’s health insurance premiums. Employees will be paying more for their similar plans from last year and the insurance plans will carry a higher deductible.
    The school board approved the budget at a special called meeting last Thursday.
    “We’ve cut as much as we can cut,” School Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch told the board.
    The $103.2 million budget includes $98.1 million in operating funds, $26,155 in the maintenance fund (down from a $1 million request), $651,785 in the textbook fund and $4.4 million for the school nutrition fund. The budget passed on a unanimous vote.
    Though 46 positions were eliminated, the majority of those employees were actually reassigned; only four people have actually been laid off and there’s still a chance some of them might be recalled.
In other action
    • On Thursday the school board agreed to set a date—Aug. 28—to tour Thaxton Elementary and Bedford Primary schools. The board is expected to vote to close one of those schools for the 2015-2016 school year, in addition to already agreeing to close Body Camp Elementary. Closing the two schools is expected to save $1.6 million per school year. A public hearing on the Liberty attendance zone elementary schools will be set for a date in September.
    At a meeting last week, some members of the board of supervisors expressed dismay that the school board didn’t close two schools for the upcoming school year. “That was unrealistic,” Hostutler said. “It wasn’t practical to do two schools (for 2014-2015).”
    Hostutler said the board was “very, very aggressive” in pursuing the school consolidation issue once the state-mandated efficiency study was released. “We got a lot done in three weeks,” he said.
    He added that having the year to plan will help eliminate and work through potential problems. “There’s a lot of things to consider,” he said.
    • Also on Thursday, the school board briefly discussed education specifications for the new middle school that will be built in the Liberty attendance zone. The board will direct its consultants to look at a school built to educate 700 students along with construction of a competitive gymnasium that the high school could also use.