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WJCC School Board budget includes $750,000 gap

The Williamsburg-James City County School Board are asking local taxpayers to give an additional $750,000 in revenue to cover extra spending in the upcoming fiscal year.

Board members said they could not cut another cent from the $132.7 million budget Tuesday evening and agreed in a 4-3 vote to pass the spending plan to the city and county. The county Board of Supervisors and City Council must now decide whether to include the additional funds in their respective budgets.

“I think the reality is we’ve presented a budget of need and have, in good faith, tried to adjust it,” said Lisa Ownby (JCC Powhatan).

The board has debated the $132.7 million budget since Superintendent Olwen Herron introduced it Feb. 21. The proposal requests $4.5 million more than last year.

Supervisors and council members will decide whether to fund the $750,000 spending gap or force the School Board to approve a balanced budget.

A meeting between the three governing bodies March 17 indicated the localities did not expect to have any extra funding to grant.

Going into Tuesday’s meeting, School Board members were facing a $1.4 million gap between budgeted expenditures and expected revenue.

Schools Board members cut the Pathways program expansion and chose not to buy two new buses, cutting the gap to just under $1 million. Close to $200,000 more in revenue was added by creating a spousal surcharge if employees want to keep spouses on the division’s health insurance, leaving a gap of about $750,000.

“This is our need,” Jim Kelly (JCC Jamestown) said. “Why are we trying to hit a number? We should be putting together a budget of need, working with our funding partners.”

Kelly voted against the budget because he disagrees with the surcharge. Sandra Young (JCC Berkeley) dissented because she wanted to pass a balanced budget. James Beers (JCC Roberts) was the third opposing vote. He said the board should look for more cuts.

Beers asked about a 1 to 2 percent blanket cut to the budgets of each department or school, forcing anagers to find spending reductions. The schools Chief Financial Officer Christina Berta said a blanket cut will not work because of differences between departments, some of which already run with tight funding.

“I think the biggest impact unfortunately will be in the area of technology and instruction,” Herron said. “Those are the two departments where we could choose not to do things we would regularly have done.”

The board decided not to institute a blanket decrease without knowing what it would impact. Limiting School Board member’s travel was the last cut, saving the division $8,000.

The schools budget is sent to the county Board of Supervisors and City Council for approval, and a final version will be approved by the school board in May.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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