WINCHESTER — The Frederick County School Board voted 6-1 last week to approve buying 19 school buses with money saved as a result of schools being closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic closed schools in Virginia in late March. Frederick County Public Schools reopened for the 2020-21 academic year on Sept. 8.
Patty Camery, the school division’s executive director of finance, said the division has $1,976,978 in unobligated funds in the fiscal 2020 operating budget related to coronavirus savings. The board OK’d that amount being shifted to the FY21 budget to buy the new buses. The Board of Supervisors must now approve the adjustment.
School Board member Brandon Monk was the lone dissenting vote. He said he wanted the board to consider other possible needs within the school division before making a decision.
“I want to be abundantly clear, I’m not against buses, not against even this money going in that way,” Monk said. “I’m just saying that it’s prudent for this board to give it time for consideration.”
FCPS has 89 buses that are 16 years old or older, division Superintendent David Sovine told the board. There are 36 buses that have 200,000 to 250,000 miles on them. Another 50 buses have more than 250,000 miles on them, Sovine said.
Funding for only one new school bus was included in the fiscal 2020 budget, and that was for Jordan Springs Elementary School, which opened for the first time on Sept. 8. Earlier this year, Sovine cut 13 replacement buses from his FY20 budget proposal.
The $1.9 million in savings is attributed to $425,552 in state sales tax revenue, $442,846 in savings from payroll expenditures, $542,749 in savings in utilities and fuel and $565,831 in savings from a spending freeze that was implemented in the division.
In addition to the $1.9 million, there was $2,271,921 in surplus funds in the school operating fund.
The board also approved an FY21 budget adjustment to carry forward an additional $294,942 to its operating fund for “restricted for specific purposes.”
Camery shared an update on additional spending by the division that qualifies for funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). As of Sept. 4, Camery said coronavirus-related spending by the division has totaled $2,434,428. The coronavirus expenses are ongoing, she said.
The additional COVID-19 spending by the division breaks down as follows:
Childcare — $376,000
Meals program — $566,470
Internet hot spots — $165,000
Personal protective equipment (PPE) — $385,670
Technology — $201,739
Disinfectant/sanitizers — $471,890
Temperature checks — $17,496
Water — $20,721
Storage containers — $123,200
Other — $106,242
Various revenues through the CARES Act provided to the division include $1,140,365 from the elementary and secondary school emergency relief fund, $52,262 for special education and $3,561,152 from CARES Act funding provided to Frederick County.
Attending Tuesday’s School Board meeting at the division’s administration building at 1415 Amherst St. were Superintendent David Sovine and Frederick County School Board Chairman Jay Foreman. School Board members in attendance were Shontyá Washington, Brandon Monk, Brian Hester, Bradley Comstock, Frank Wright and Vice Chairman Michael Lake. The meeting was held in-person with limited capacity. The meeting was livestreamed on YouTube.