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Stimulus funds may help schools

Federal stimulus education funds totaling $283,500 may save several staff positions in the Middlesex County School System—at least in the upcoming 2009-10 (FY10) year.

School superintendent Rusty Fairheart announced at a school board meeting Monday night that the stimulus funds may be coming to Middlesex through the State of Virginia, provided Governor Kaine gives his blessing.

Even with the stimulus funds, however, a $151,000 loss in state funds over the current year (FY09) will have to be absorbed. This shortfall can be made up through cuts that do not involve personnel, said Fairheart.

The school board will vote at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, to send the proposed FY10 school budget to the board of supervisors for its consideration. The school board meeting will be held at the Cooks Corner Office Complex.

Until Governor Kaine approves the stimulus package, the school board must act on the previously proposed $14,016,719 budget for FY10, which includes a $287,769 shortfall. 

“None of the stimulus funds are cast in stone,” said Fairheart. “Until we know for sure what we are going to receive, we shouldn’t add these funds into our budget.”

The school system also may receive as much as $100,000 in federal funds for its Title I program, and additional special education funds also are expected.

Fairheart emphasized that the stimulus money is only a “one-year fix,” and the school system may be looking at staff and personnel cuts in the 2010-11 (FY11) school budget. 

Fairheart also noted the state composite index for Middlesex and other jurisdictions will be refigured next year, and this could have an adverse effect on state funding. In part, the composite index, which is based on real estate values, determines the amount of state education funds a locality receives. 

According to the composite index, Middlesex is the 13th wealthiest county in the state. The wealthier the county, the less state funds it receives for education.

Fairheart warned that a poor state economy, combined with a higher composite index for Middlesex, could create a major budget shortfall for county schools in FY11. 

In other matters, the board:

  • Voted to accept a recommendation by Fairheart not to make up two recent snow days because the school system already has enough instructional hours built into its school calendar. There was only one official snow day on the calendar, but when Fairheart studied the matter further he found there were enough instructional hours to take care of the second snow day as well.
    “I would suggest having two snow days always built into the school year,” said board chairman Beth Hurd. “We seldom miss just one day of school when it snows.”
  • Voted to hire Victoria Perrigan, a senior at William & Mary, to teach middle school math next year.
  • Voted to accept the resignation of MHS JV soccer coach Leroy Holt.

posted 03.11.2009

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