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Supervisors want education cuts to be temporary

by Larry S. Chowning

The Middlesex County Board of Supervisors has sent a letter to State Delegate Harvey Morgan stating that they are strongly opposed to the State of Virginia “permanently” cutting funds for education.

Governor Tim Kaine is recommending to eliminate $2.9 billion from the state’s general fund, and a lot of these cuts are being passed on to localities such as Middlesex. 

“We, as a board, are strongly opposed to any cuts in education,” wrote the board. “However, if cuts must be made, we would respectfully request that any such cuts be temporary.

“We feel that cutting education is a very poor, short-term solution to repair the Commonwealth’s budget shortfall,” stated the letter. “Should we not educate the children of the Commonwealth, we will create or set up the potential for much more costly social problems in the future.

“We also respectfully suggest that any cuts to education would be accompanied by a reduction in unfunded mandates or programs presently ordered by the Commonwealth,” stated the letter.

Supervisors are urging all citizens to contact Delegate Morgan and other Virginia politicians to not make education cuts permanent. Morgan can be contacted at (804) 698-1098, by e-mail at , or by mail at P.O. Box 406, General Assembly Building, Richmond, VA 23218.

The Middlesex County Public School System is expected to lose over $500,000 in state aid in the 2009-10 (FY10) budget. School superintendent Rusty Fairheart has recommended ways for $210,000 to be eliminated, but the other cuts have not been determined.

A final public meeting on the school budget was held Feb. 5 at Urbanna United Methodist Church. Two similar meetings had already been held—one in Pinetop District and the other in Jamaica District. The Urbanna meeting had the largest turnout of non-teachers of the three meetings.

At the Urbanna meeting, some citizens felt Middlesex’s loss in state school funds should be picked up by the county. Bill Kurz of Urbanna said waterfront real estate taxes went “sky high” last year because of the county reassessment, and he feels Middlesex has enough money to fund the shortfall.

Dennis Durrette said his taxes went up $1,000 because of the reassessment. “Where has all this money gone to?” he asked.

School superintendent Rusty Fairheart said that’s a question that should be directed to the county board of supervisors.

Karen Daddario said the Governor has suggested cutting administration and support personnel as a way for school systems to trim their budgets. She asked Fairheart if he had considered cutting 11-month and 12-month administrators and others back to 10 months as a way to save funds and keep jobs.

Fairheart said he has already recommended cutting a social worker and a school psychologist to 10 months. He indicated he may have to consider more.

However, Fairheart contended administrators have a lot of work to do in the summer. “June 30th through August 30th is not a slack time for administrators,” he said.

Cathy Ruark asked if the $100,000 paid annually to substitute teachers could be eliminated. She also suggested that the school system find retired teachers in the community and ask if they would volunteer to substitute.

Fairheart said he is looking into ways to cut back on the need for substitute teachers, and noted there are already some volunteers working in the schools. He added that he doesn’t see any way to cut the entire amount of the substitute teacher line item from the budget. “When we have long leaves of absence for sickness or other things, we have to have a reliable substitute teacher every day for that class,” he said.

Keith Hodges said he feels “grass roots” is a key and students should be encouraged to get involved in the political system. He said each year the county picks up about 100 voters on graduation night.  It would seem these students would be “pro-active” for schools, he said.

School board member Lee Walton thanked everyone for attending the meeting and sharing concerns and opinions. “I think you have truly brought some good ideas to the surface, and we thank you for coming,” he said.

Walton urged citizens to attend the joint budget work session of the school board and supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the historic courthouse in Saluda.

posted 02.12.2009

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