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Uncertainty surrounds Norton school budget planning

Mike Still, [email protected] • Feb 13, 2019 at 9:30 PM

NORTON — Norton school officials are still waiting on the Virginia General Assembly for some firm numbers on key funding for the 2019-20 school system budget.

Superintendent Gina Wohlford told city school board members Monday that the city council is also waiting for news about state funding before making any decisions on what its funding levels for the system will be.

Wohlford told the board that she and schools Finance Director Jacquline Brooke had based preliminary numbers on an anticipated 780-student enrollment across Norton Elementary and Middle School and John I. Burton High School.

NEMS Principal Scott Addison told board members that the systemwide enrollment as of Feb. 8 had reached 790. He said that figure could change for several reasons including transient families, but he added that ups and downs in enrollment could level out around 780.

In a PowerPoint presentation to the board, Wohlford said the state’s composite index system — a measure of city and county governments’ ability to contribute to school system budgets — indicated the city would be obligated to various base funding depending on the school system’s enrollment in 2019-2020.

An enrollment of 780 students next fiscal year would require the city to provide $1.659 million in local support for the school budget, Wohlford said. If enrollment reaches 785, the required local effort by the city would climb to $1.67 million.

The City Council approved $2.44 million for the school system for the current fiscal year, bringing the total school budget for 2019-19 to $8.28 million.

Wohlford said she was more comfortable basing budget planning on 780 students for the next fiscal year.

State funding for the budget is still dependent on what the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates agree on for the 2019-20 fiscal year, but Wohlford said she had based anticipated state money on what the General Assembly had approved for the 2018-2020 biennium: $5.402 million.

If the House and Senate adopt recommendations from Gov. Ralph Northam, Wolford said, teachers could see a 3 percent raise over the next fiscal year.

Wohlford said the school system can expect federal funding in its budget to drop from the current year’s $477,710 to $441,822. Other funding sources would bring about $200,000 — an approximately $3,000 drop from the current year.

While health insurance costs for the current fiscal year should stay as planned, Wolford said, the budget proposal includes a 10 percent cost markup for the next fiscal year as a precaution. The final form of the budget proposal will also include a 5 percent increase for possible utilities increases, she said.

Board members agreed to schedule a budget public hearing on April 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the John I. Burton High School library.

The board also agreed to change its March regular board meeting from March 11 to March 14 at the Burton High School library.

Board members also agreed to review the school system’s facilities use policies and a proposed memorandum of understanding guiding Norton Little League’s use of ballfields at Norton Elementary and Middle School. Board member Mark Leonard said that the league had used the fields since 1973 and had invested in field improvements and maintenance over the past 46 years.

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