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Schools to lose $553,000 in funds

by Larry S. Chowning

The State of Virginia will cut $445,000 in basic school aid and $108,000 in debt service payments from the Middlesex school budget in 2009-10 (FY10), the county board of supervisors was told by school superintendent Rusty Fairheart Tuesday.

Last year, Middlesex schools lost over $700,000 in state funds because of changes to the State Composite Index—the formula used to determine how much basic state school aid each school system receives.

“We’ve lost over $1.2 million the past two years,” said supervisor Jack Miller. “It’s terrible.”

Fairheart told supervisors his staff has already been looking at ways to trim the cost of education without impacting classroom learning.

Supervisor Kenneth W. Williams said he did not know what the county would do to overcome the loss in funds. He indicated real estate taxes are not going to continue to pay most of the county expenses if the state continues to withdraw funding.

Supervisors Fred Crittenden and Wayne Jessie said the county needs to revisit implementing a meals tax. The county has proposed a meals tax twice and placed it on a referendum. However, each time county citizens have voted it down.

Miller said the funding problem goes beyond a meals tax. “A meals tax will help, but it’s not going to generate the kind of money we are going to need,” he said.

Miller noted that waterfront real estate sales are now slow. He said one waterfront house in the county started out at $800,000, has been dropped to $600,000, and still there is no buyer.

“When this next reassessment comes, all that waterfront that was inflated because of the real estate bubble just might be reduced,” said Miller.

Middlesex’s real estate reassessment was completed in early 2008 when real estate values were still high. County administrator Charles Culley said if the value of real estate goes down, supervisors will be faced with raising the tax rate in the future to generate the necessary income to run the county.

In August, Culley sent letters to all county department heads, asking them to suggest ways that 5 percent could be cut from each department’s current (FY9) and upcoming FY10 budget.

VDOT cuts

VDOT resident engineer Marcie Parker told the board the VDOT budget is going to be reduced statewide by $284 million, and Middlesex’s portion of the funds will be trimmed.

She also noted the state plans to reduce the number of VDOT residencies by 30 percent. She did not know whether the Saluda Residency would remain open. She did indicate there is no threat of the VDOT Saluda Maintenance Headquarters closing. 

“If we don’t find new revenue sources, we are not building anything,” said Parker. “This is a grim projection of road construction in Middlesex. It’s this way in every county.”

Parker noted that every aspect of local road construction would be impacted, except the widening of the turn lane serving St. Clare Walker and Middlesex Elementary schools. A light and turn lane is scheduled to be installed there in June 2009. “This was already far enough along that it will not be impacted by budget cuts,” she said.

posted 01.07.2009

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