Friction over textbook purchases in Clarke
Posted: February 12, 2013
The Winchester Star
BERRYVILLE — The Clarke County School Board’s request to use $380,000 in carryover funds from its 2011-12 budget — to purchase textbooks and Smart Boards, and update bus radios — must pass the scrutiny of a public hearing.
The Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors agreed Monday to consider the request.
A public hearing is necessary, however, because it represents a more than 1 percent change in the $24.9 million budget the supervisors adopted last spring for fiscal year 2013, which started in July.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Hobert said the public hearing could be held in March.
Finance Director Thomas Judge said the schools have purchased the textbooks and are now asking the supervisors to give them $100,000 from the carryover funds to cover the cost.
Another $120,000 would be used for Smart Boards at Boyce Elementary School and $100,000 would be set aside for the school system’s share of the cost for an updated and integrated computerized record-keeping system that would allow all parts of the local government to share information among departments and with the state government.
County Administrator David Ash said the new radios are necessary because the Federal Communications Commission is shrinking the bandwidth for a variety of frequencies various groups use for radio communication.
Finance Committee member David Weiss said he is not happy that the School Board purchased the textbooks before requesting the necessary funds.
Judge said the school administration delayed the request because of the threatened sequestration of federal money in January.
He said the School Board will also ask that county officials create a special fund for textbook purchases that could be carried over from year to year.
Hobert said he was uncomfortable with that idea, because it would create an expectation that the School Board would get unexpended funds from its budget at the end of every fiscal year.
At their work session prior to Monday’s Finance Committee meeting, the supervisors reviewed the audit of the county’s 2011-12 budget by Robinson, Farmer and Cox — a firm with five offices in Virginia.
At the end of the review, Hobert noted that budget planning for fiscal year 2014 is continuing.
While the supervisors have not reviewed expenses or capital improvement plans, the fact that they have received about $2.6 million more in expense requests than expected revenue is “a little scary,” Hobert said.
The supervisors heard a presentation about the School Board’s spending requests last week.
“They presented, we listened,” Hobert said, adding, “We probably can’t provide them with as much as they would like.”
The School Board has been discussing about $1 million in additional spending for FY 2014.
Supervisor Barbara Byrd, who serves on a special committee considering ways to increase security at the county’s schools, warned that the panel will seek “a large amount of money,” to make physical changes at the schools.
Byrd said she is concerned about making the schools “look like a stalag,” but added: “There will be things coming.”
Attending the work session in the Joint Government Center were Chairman Michael Hobert and members Barbara Byrd, David Weiss and Beverly McKay. Supervisor John Staelin was absent.
— Contact Val Van Meter at email@example.com