WINCHESTER — Even before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on the local economy, it was unlikely the Frederick County School Board would receive all the funding it’s seeking from the Board of Supervisors for its fiscal 2021 budget.

At recent county meetings, Supervisors Blaine Dunn, Shawn Graber and J. Douglas McCarthy were critical of school officials, saying they needed more information and had only seen a three-page school budget summary, which is available online at https://bit.ly/FCPSbudgetproposalFY21. They said they wanted a detailed, line item budget.

Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent David Sovine maintains the School Board has been forthcoming with its budget plan.

“Despite the opinions expressed by a few members of the Board of Supervisors, I believe we are extremely transparent regarding our budget and throughout the budget development process,” Sovine wrote in an email to The Star.

Sovine said a highly detailed budget can’t be finalized until both the county and state have finalized their appropriations to the school division.

Dunn and Graber said on Wednesday that Loudoun County Public Schools has a detailed budget proposal with hundreds of pages available online.

Sovine said he can’t speak to what other school divisions do. He said the School Board has used its budget process for many years and has enhanced it over time. “As far as I know, our School Board members feel as though they have the information needed to allow them to develop and adopt a budget,” he said.

Steve Edwards, the school division’s Coordinator of Policy and Communications, told The Star the supervisors have been provided with considerably more than three pages of budget documents.

According to Edwards, following the School Board’s fall training session on Oct. 25, each supervisor was provided with the same 142 pages of information provided to each School Board member during the session. The School Board used that information to develop its FY21 budget priorities.

Sovine explained the process of developing a budget begins at the fall training session. The supervisors and county administrator have been invited to attend the session, he noted. The School Board also solicits public comments on budget priorities. After the School Board adopts priorities, Sovine develops and presents his budget to the School Board in an open meeting.

Sovine’s $233 million budget proposal for FY21 seeks an extra $15.4 million from the county — $97.3 million, up from $86.4 million in the current fiscal year.

At the School Board’s Feb. 18 meeting, Sovine gave a 22-page budget presentation. Sovine also provided the supervisors with additional information on his budget proposal during the School Board/Board of Supervisors joint meeting on Feb. 26.

Edwards also said school officials have responded to numerous questions from different supervisors via email during the budget process.

Edwards added that the School Board’s approved budget for fiscal year 2020 is available online and that next year’s budget will build on that.

Although some superivsors have questioned how the School Board spends its money, Sovine said that it’s not the supervisors’ role or responsibility to dictate how the school division allocates its funds.

“Among other things, the School Board is solely responsible for the school division’s financial matters, including developing and approving the budget,” Sovine said. “The Board of Supervisors is responsible for appropriating funds to the school division. I believe it’s important for both boards to understand their responsibilities and respect each other’s decisions with respect to those responsibilities. The members of both boards are elected by the citizens of Frederick County, should be trusted to fulfill their responsibilities and are ultimately held accountable by their constituents.”

Sovine said the two governing bodies “generally have a good working relationship.” He also said, “There is always some room for improvement.”

Sovine added that he would like the two boards to consider meeting periodically throughout the year to discuss needs and how to address needs. He said the community will continue to grow and that addressing those needs will require strategic, long-term planning.

In response to Sovine’s statements, Graber said he knows his role as a supervisor and that a line item budget would allow the supervisors to have “a good, sit down dialogue with the School Board.”

“It is concerning to me that a school system such as Loudoun County, I know a lot more about that locality’s school system than I do about my own,” Graber said.

— Contact Josh Janney at

jjanney@winchesterstar.com

(14) comments

Michael Stottlemyer

Isn't it a tad hypocritical of Sovine to want to use comparison's to Loudoun County when it comes to the things he would like to browbeat Frederick County for(schools, etc, teachers raises..which by the way the school board DOES makes the decision on) , yet washes his hands of comparison's when he may have to make public a budget?

redsox

As to why he can't (won't) give the BOS the draft line-item budget: "Sovine said a highly detailed budget can’t be finalized until both the county and state have finalized their appropriations to the school division." So...we can't (won't) show you how we came up with our number until you agree to give us our number?!?

Bryan.the.Nuri

Kinda sorta, yeah. They can't make a detailed budget until they know how much money they are being allowed to spend.

gscott

It is not Mr. Sovine's job to attempt to school the Board of Supervisors or the School Board. We elect them. We do not elect Mr. Sovine. He is our employee. For $200,000 a year, I think he needs to start producing what is being asked.Just because he hasn't thus far is not an excuse not to. In a year, we will be having these same disagreements again unless he produces a detailed budget as requested. To me, it should be a job requirement to produce a line item budget proposal each year. Who works for whom?

mikep

I trust our Superintendent, hired by the people we did elect, to know what is best for our schools...I do NOT trust our BOS, comprised of people with little to no education experience to have the power to get a line item budget and then decide what they in their minds think is appropriate for students. They have no idea what is needed in education today, and to think they should have say over what program is needed or not is absurd.

Historian

I agree mikep. People act like we cannot trust the superintendent because we did not elect him. However, the very foundation of our republic is that we elect people who will make these types of decisions for us. This is not a new form of government. If we are dissatisfied with the way that it is being handled it means we need to vote in new school board members and supervisors, and let them make decisions that they think is in the best interest of the county. If we agree, we reelect them, if not then we vote them out. Our Board of Supervisors does not have sufficient knowledge in the way education functions in 2020. I wonder if we would be having this much pressure on Sovine to make cuts if the Board of Supervisors had not bought the Sunnyside Plaza property that needs millions to be ADA compliant (I can't remember the amount the Star had, but I believe low estimates were around eight million dollars...).

Doc Samson

You should know by now that Leftists make their own rules and, being vastly more intelligent than the rest of us, really shouldn't have to explain themselves to anyone. Mere blind trust is all that is required of us per quod demonstrandum "mikep"s letter below...

Bryan.the.Nuri

LeFtIsTs...

P[lease, anonymous, contribute to the conversation.

kburch

Dr. Sovine is an employee of the School Board which is a separate elected entity from the Board of Supervisors.

Doc Samson

The US spends more per pupil than almost every other country in the world - https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/020915/what-country-spends-most-education.asp. Perhaps if we focused on actual education and not things like the constantly rotating SJW projects/fads, providing services that are better suited for DSS, or constantly lowering the bar on classroom behavior, we wouldn't always be "needing" more money...

Conservative

How much of that money is wasted on illegal aliens?

Bryan.the.Nuri

lol... You're cute.

njohnson446

Transparent like a smoky window. Forthcoming with answers like career politicians.

KarenD

Maybe Mr. Graber should consider attending the FCPS 101 classes that the school district offers each year. As a past graduate of that class and a parent who has attended school board meetings, I have found our school board and school district staff to be very transparent about what our school district needs are. As a parent and president of the school PTO where my child attends, I think that it is unfortunate that the board of supervisors does not make it a priority to attend meetings that they are invited to such as the training session the school district offers that would shed some light on what they seem to have difficulty in comprehending. My close observation of the Frederick County School District over the past several years is that our community is not supporting our students like it could be or should be - especially considering our children are our future. We need a strategic plan to account for growth in our community. I am impressed with how much the students of our school district manage to accomplish without having the funding that that is needed to support many of their needs. I am glad to see Dr. Sovine ask for an amount closer to what is actually needed to run the school district rather than cutting everywhere the school district can to get by and THEN asking the Board of Supervisors for money - who then cuts that number with no clue of what really running the school district the best way possible would cost.

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