Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe said it is too early to tell what effect Kaine’s latest round of budget cuts may have on Carroll County. Even so, he was ecstatic that K-12 education was left out of the budget cuts, unlike funds to state colleges and universities.
“That is a blessing for us. We were afraid the shoe would fall for education and we would be in the hole some millions of dollars on that side of it, but obviously some magic was waved and other choices were taken,” Larrowe said. “At least we did not get the cut in K-12 education according to the preliminary data.”
As late as February, job cuts for the Carroll County Public School System appeared to be a strong possibility. Carroll County school officials were informed on Dec. 19 of last year that the state would cut the school system’s budget for Fiscal Year 2009-2010 by $1.93 million. Additionally, Carroll schools were told on Dec. 31 of last year that the state reduced $120,000 of this year’s funding. Job cuts were avoided, however, after Carroll schools received nearly $1.6 million in federal stimulus funds in March.
Carroll County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Greg Smith said he was very pleased to hear K-12 education was spared the latest round of budget cuts. But that is only applicable to the 2009-2010 school year, he said. Gov. Kaine will make another presentation in regard to the 2010-2011 state budget on Dec. 18. At that time, the school system will learn what implications the state budget will have on public school funding for next year.
“We have been proactive in regard to anticipating future budget cuts and have looked at cost saving across the board as well as looking at every vacancy that we have in regard to personnel and through attrition, making good decisions for the replacement of various members of the staff that have chosen to leave or retire. That way we have saved funding within the personnel category,” Smith said. “It appears we will be spared that, but we are cautiously approaching this because there was a similar conversation the governor had last year at one of the budget conversations. And subsequently we received categorical cuts in several areas of the budget.”
Because of that, Smith said the school system is scrutinizing every possible vacancy and every possible category of the budget to see how far it can stretch the public funds.
“What we fear is that after the 2010-11 budget we will not see any future stimulus funds. At that point, the funding from the state is going to be critical to us. Right now the state is facing a deficit currently at $1.3 billion, so we are uncertain as to how that will impact future budgets, especially after stimulus funds end,” Smith said. “We feel relatively confident that funding for this year and next year will be adequate through the federal stimulus funds we have. Beyond that, the 2011 budget is very uncertain at this time.”
Last year’s budget cuts put pressure on Carroll County to be able to balance a county budget without raising taxes. Larrowe said the county had to pick up $146,000 in funding for constitutional offices that the state did not continue to fund. Carroll’s portion of state funding for the New River Valley Regional Jail was also cut, leaving the county to pick up the difference. Larrowe said it is just too early to tell how this round of budget cuts will affect Carroll County.
“It is very vague the way (the budget cuts are) posted, even in the full PDF. We don’t yet know how this will affect us and I don’t think we will know for a while,” Larrowe said. “I saw where constitutional offices got some cuts as well as various other places, but I really don’t know what the bottom line would be. I think there will be impacts, we just don’t know what and where.”
One certainty is that Kaine’s plan will close three correctional facilities. Larrowe said that is not necessarily bad news for Carroll County. Led by Laurel Fork District Supervisor Andy Jackson, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted last December to approve the Carroll County Prison Study Committee’s recommendation to go forward with a request that Carroll County be added to the list of locations willing to accept a state or federal prison.
“That doesn’t change things, so the work Andy did is still applicable. We knew there were scarce funds available for those kinds of activities, but it is at least something that can be looked at and was approved by the board to look at,” Larrowe said. “We’ve gone as far as we could end up going with it for the time being. The state budget won’t support it at this point. That has been known for a long time and that is just the economic state in which we are in.”