Now, after looking at numbers coming from Richmond, that climb could be steeper.
At the Jan. 10 meeting of the Carroll County School Board, Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith relayed some stark numbers for the new board, detailing what could prove to be the most challenging budget process in some time.
When the budget committee gets together for the first time, members will be staring at a $1,030,000 shortfall with the possibility of another $790,000 in additional retirement benefits tacked onto that.
“While these numbers appear to be frightening, we are not alone in this process. Every day I see school systems making reports concerning shortfalls. We see it everywhere throughout the Commonwealth,” Smith said.
Smith said in recent years, Stimulus funds helped bridge the gap where a shortfall would have existed. In the current Fiscal Year, Carroll is taking advantage of $992,000 in federal funds, which won’t be there for next year.
In laying out his budget, Governor Bob McDonnell increased education spending by $438 million over the next two years, but Carroll County’s negative change in its composite index means there won’t be an increase coming this way.
Plus, in the proposal, an additional $2.2 billion will be pledged to the Virginia Retirement System, which covers retirement benefits for state employees, including teachers. Carroll’s state-mandated VRS rate will increase from 11.3 percent to 16.66 percent.
Financial Manager Tammy Quesenberry said that meant this year, Carroll is paying $2.5 million in VRS obligations. Next year, that number will jump to $3.6 million, but of that, $550,000 will be covered by the state, for a gap of $790,000.
“Is that added to the $1,030,000? That puts us closer to $2 million,” noted Fancy Gap representative Joey Haynes, to which Smith and Quesenberry noted in the affirmative.
“This is the first volley,” Quesenberry noted.
Smith said when he first started in the educational system, employees contributed to VRS. However, some years back, the localities took on the obligations in lieu of a pay increase.
“The governor would like that to be employee contributions. Five percent is a large contribution,” Smith said. “When I started, in 1985, everybody paid that. Over the years, the localities took that over. It was supposed to be a nonreversible action. I think the nonreversible action is now reversible.”
Haynes asked if the VRS figures could still be adjusted. Quesenberry said that is the case.
Smith said there’s still a lot of ground to cover between now and when budgets are finalized, and more funding sources could spring up.
“I’m hearing some rumblings of some additional funding possibilities but nothing concrete yet,” he said. “As Tammy said, it’s early in the process.”
He noted that it’s important for the school system to state its case as clearly and as effectively as possible so policy makers in Richmond will hear it.
“We are early in the process and we have hopes of state funds meeting our budgetary goals,” Smith said. “We must be persistent. We must certainly communicate our various needs.”