August 5, 2008

Schools May Be Asked to Trim Budgets

By Bob Stuart, The News Virginian, Waynesboro, Va.

Aug. 5--The state's top education official will brief public school superintendents today on the tightening state revenue picture.

Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Billy Cannaday Jr. will share the details of a memo from Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's chief of staff about the slower than anticipated collections of income and sales tax revenue that fund Virginia's budget.

The memo from Chief of Staff Wayne Turnage advises executive branch agency heads to reduce discretionary spending.

Turnage said long-term savings are needed, along with a more efficient delivery of services.

Cannaday's briefing for superintendents is an informational one "to keep [educators] in the loop," said Department of Education spokesman Charles Pyle.

Pyle said there is no discussion yet of reduced education money to school districts.

This fiscal year's state budget calls for $6.4 billion in direct aid to public schools, up from $5.9 billion last school year.

Augusta County Superintendent Gary McQuain said his district is prepared to tighten its belt, and anticipates getting less sales tax revenue.

Augusta County receives roughly 60 percent of its money -- or $64.3 million of $102 million this school year, according to state documents -- from the state.

McQuain said during past budget tightening, education has been spared.

"We've never had to deal with this before," he said. "In the past K-12 has been exempt."

Waynesboro Schools Superintendent Robin Crowder said funding is already tight for his school district.

"We will be sensitive to instructional programs. We want to maintain low pupil-teacher ratios," he said.

Waynesboro is scheduled to receive $17.4 million and Staunton $18.3 million in state money this school year. Nelson County is slated to receive $9.9 million.

Crowder said that when he meets with the Waynesboro School Board next week, he will discuss adding 1.5 more kindergarten positions to cover an anticipated kindergarten enrollment increase.

Crowder does not anticipate any budget impact from his request.

"Additional state dollars come with the kids," he said. "We anticipate a wash."


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