School leaders want county Board of Supervisors to consider sending a bit more cash their way next fiscal year.
Supervisors have wrapped up straw poll votes on the fiscal year 2018 budget, adopting a total operating budget of $1.728 billion and agreeing to send $748 million of that to public schools. That would be a 7.65 percent increase in local funding over the current fiscal year, but it still leaves the school system $5.5 million short of its request.
The School Board voted last night to ask supervisors to find an additional $1.9 million for the school system to purchase 16 additional buses.
Supervisors have agreed to fund 44 buses of the 60 the School Board says it needs. Through straw votes, supervisors earmarked $5.26 million to pay for 44 of those using unspent county funds from the previous fiscal year. A new bus costs about $120,000.
Superintendent Eric Williams said that supervisors essentially have two pots of money to pull the $1.9 million from: unspent dollars from the previous fiscal year or to include the buses in next fiscal year’s Capital Improvement Program.
“The critical issue here is that we get to 60 buses to make our replacement cycle,” School Board member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said. That means older buses are transporting students, increasing safety concerns and maintenance costs.
Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) and Debbie Rose (Algonkian) voted against the measure. “It’s almost like we’re asking them, ‘oh, please look again,’” Turgeon said.
“To a certain extent, it is a request to ask them to look again,” Williams responded.
He said he has spoken with County Administrator Tim Hemstreet and County Attorney Leo Rogers about the request. “The county attorney did say that by making a request it places it on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda. … So the intent is to just make them aware.
E. Leigh Burden, assistant superintendent of Financial Services, cut to the chase: “Basically we’re trying to whittle away at the $5.5 million so we have to reconcile less. … If we can get things funded in other ways, then that’s less that we have to cut.”