School Finance Report
Wrapping Up the2012-2013 School Year
On June 30, 2013 the Grayson County Public Schools finished the 2012-13 school year. I am pleased to report that the school division balanced their budget and completed another successful year, both educationally and financially. On behalf of the School Board, we want to thank the Board of Supervisors for their support of education, and for being willing partners in providing the best education possible for Grayson County residents. The Board of Supervisors provided their Required Local Effort of 33%, PLUS an additional amount that pays for the financing of 2 new schools, school resource officers;and a matching amount for a school bus, athletic facilities, and school safety and security expenses.
We would also like to thank the County Sheriff’s Office for providing additional resource officers and helping with the school safety audits. We look forward to working with law enforcement as we develop school safety plans that meet the new state laws passed this spring to address school safety concerns.
Looking Ahead to the2013-14 School Year
When we began to put the budget together in January for the13-14 school year, the administration identified several top priorities. Since all school budgets must be planned before the state legislature concludes its work in May, the best we can do is build a budget based on estimates or “best guesses”. We must estimate what the student enrollment is going to be the following March (almost a year in advance) because that is what our funding is based on. The new VADOC prison opening is a long-awaited benefit to the county, but it does provide an unknown factor to the funding process. We don’t know what that will do to our enrollment, but we are hoping it will slow the decline we have experienced over the past 5 years. Our anticipated revenue for 13-14 is$20,624,443.01. Our planned expenditure must match the revenue expected so we will work with the approved budget of $20,624,443.01.
The Division’s list of priorities for the coming school year center around the following areas: employee compensation, technology enhancement, facilities improvements, transportation upgrades, school safety, and continual improvement in school programs. It is not possible to say one area is more important than another, and each has suffered during the past 4 years of reduced state and federal funding. In a healthy division, each plays an important role and must be given its proper place in the budget. With enrollment stabilized and the slow turnaround of our economy, we are hoping to address some of the needs that have been postponed over the past several years. We approached the Board of Supervisors in our joint board meeting in March, and they have agreed to help fund some of these areas of need:
1) Salaries- The Governor proposed and the legislature passed funding for a 2% increase to all certified teachers according to the formula for funding public schools. The Board of Supervisors is splitting the cost with the Division to come up with the Local Effort share at $34,000 each. The Division will provide the 2% for all support staff not covered by the Governor’s plan. All staff will receive at least a 2% increase with 1 percent added for VRS (Virginia Retirement System).While this helps our staff with a much needed raise, it does not close the gap between what our division pays and what surrounding divisions pay since they are also offering the same 2% increase to their staff.
2) Technology- We are not able to increase the amount of dollars to technology that we would like, but we will reallocate our state funds to meet a growing need in the area of technology- wireless access. One of the major changes for next year will be in our technology services. The division has decided to contract with Lingo Networks, a technology company that services private and public organizations in central and southwest Virginia. This service will provide us with access to the most recent advancements in technology, and provide consultants for enhancements and projects to improve our technology capabilities. Our goal is to have each of our schools be wireless capable by the second semester. Many school divisions in Virginia and the nation are moving to a tablet/iPad model of providing technology enhanced education.Through grants and state funds, we are moving in that direction. The first step is to build the infrastructure at each school to handle hundreds of wireless devices at one time. The division will provide laptop computer devices on a rotating basis, and students can bring their own device (known as BYOD) and have wireless access. This could include technology devises like iPads, tablets, laptops and smartphones. These enhancements are important for Grayson County Students to prepare for the technological world they will be competing in when they go off to college, the military or the work force.
3) Facilities- Three years ago two new schools were opened up and provided Grayson County with first rate facilities for the students in those communities. Because of the economy, however, the division has not been able to proceed with the 3 phase, long-range plan for the other schools. When budgets need to be cut, it is very difficult to improve facilities while we are laying off both educators and support staff. With the student enrollment leveling off and remaining steadier (we still lost 20 students this past year compared to 50 students a year for the past 5 years), we can began to plan facility enhancements on our older buildings, which we know we will have to use for several more years. The division will put over $100,000 in upgrading the infrastructure of the electrical grid at the high school this summer. This will enable us to provide more air-conditioning units to the building as well as increase our output for technology improvements. Our current electrical foundation has limited what we can do, and has become a safety factor which we need to address.
Another major facility improvement includes refurbishing our high school athletic field by re-grading the surface and putting an irrigation system underground. We are replacing the field with Patriot Bermuda grass which will withstand the constant use it receives as our only regulation field in the division. We are also working on upgrading some of our practice facilities at other school sites to have more options for our teams. This is a joint venture between the school division, the Board of Supervisors and the residents of Grayson County. It is an example of all groups working together to provide the students of Grayson County with a safe, first rate playing facility. This would not have been possible without the contribution of Sports Construction Management Inc. who did much of the work at or below their costs. Thanks to Philip Snider, the owner and Wes Howard, the Sales Manager, both residents of Grayson County.
Other smaller projects include: a new boiler for the Fairview school; a retaining wall to help control flooding at Fries; remodeling several restrooms at the middle school and high school; replacement of worn-out floor coverings; painting in the schools; and several safety and security devises (see below).
Transportation- The division has not purchased a bus in the past two years because of budget cuts. We currently have 44 bus routes with several additional buses designated for extra-curricular events. Of this fleet, over 20 of the buses have 150,000 miles or more, 6 with more than 200,000. The state requires busses to be inspected and regulate the life of a school bus to are commended 15 years. Some of our older vehicles will not pass inspection due to rusted out floorboards, or because the cost of repairs is more than the vehicle is valued at. Old and unreliable vehicles become a safety factor for our students and an unwise expense for the division to repair. We would have to buy 3 buses a year for the next 10 years to catch up with a rotation system that has been under- funded or postponed. Working with the Board of Supervisors, we have agreed to purchase 1 bus in 12-13 and 1 bus in 13-14 to restart a rotation system that slows down the slide until more funds become available.
We have a similar situation with our fleet and maintenance vehicles. We have over 16 vehicles that are 15 years or older with more than125,000 miles on them. We have purchased 1 maintenance truck in the past 4years because of cut backs. This year we purchased one additional utility truck and 2 transportation cars to replenish the aging vehicles which will not pass inspection. Many of our fleet vehicles are used to transport students to other communities for extra-curricular events, fieldtrips or special education classes. These vehicles have to be safe and reliable when putting students or staff in them, especially for longer trips.
Safety & Security- School safety has been a major topic of concern this spring- at the national level, the state level and the local level. Grayson County Schools are committed to keeping our students safe and working with both the County Sherriff’s Office and the Board of Supervisors. Because of our older buildings (pre Columbine, 1999), we have greater challenges in monitoring our school entrances. The Board of Supervisors has matched our $25,000 to put toward facility improvements that will focus on school safety and security. Unfortunately, $50,000 doesn’t go very far when purchasing hardware and technology today. Our summer projects include installing new door hardware and locks on the main entrance of the middle school and gym foyer as well as other facilities which need door replacements. We are installing point of entry systems at 3 elementary schools so that all 5elementary schools will have secure entrances. Additional cameras will be added to outside entrances and hallways in several schools. Two-way radios have also been purchased for staff to communicate on our spread-out campus which includes the GCHS, IMS, the CATE center, and central office. The school division is applying for additional grants which will allow us to continue to make improvements for our students’ safety.
The Sherriff’s Office has conducted a safety audit for our 8campuses, and we will be working with law enforcement to implement those recommendations. The state legislature has passed several bills related to school safety, including mandatory emergency drills that all schools will use to prepare for a variety of emergencies. The Sheriff’s Office will be applying for grants for additional school resources officers that will be welcome additions to our overall strategic plan for school safety.
School Programs- While we will be working to improve each of the categories above, we must always keep our focus on our mission: “Grayson County Public Schools’ mission is to provide a quality education through shared responsibility in a safe supportive environment for all students to meet the challenges of a global society.” The center of a quality education is Student Achievement and Highly Proficient Teaching. Grayson County has dedicated, highly qualified and caring teachers, and our students are achieving in both academic and extra-curricular activities. Through our focus on direct instruction, specific interventions, and critical thinking skills, students are prepared to enter college or the workforce and pursue the career of their choice because of the education they received from Grayson County Schools. Our elementary schools continue to increase the rigor in reading and math at the early grade levels to insure those students have the necessary skills by 3rd grade to be successful in later years and throughout their lifetime. Our middle schools expand on the core subject areas while introducing students to extra-curricular activities like band, music, athletics and clubs. Grayson County High School has a rich history and reputation for excellence in the classroom, in music, in student clubs, and athletics. These provide opportunities for individuals to reach their full potential as well as creating an environment for being a part of a team and experiencing success as a unit. This past spring there were 13students in this region who received their high school diplomas along with their 2 year associate degree from Wythe Community College. Eleven of those students were Grayson County High School graduates. The CATE center allows high school students who want to learn more about vocational careers or have a balanced high school education to explore these options through hands-on opportunities.
As we close one school year and prepare to begin a new one, we believe the future is bright for students and staff at Grayson County Public Schools. We look forward to a continued partnership with our parents, community and business associates as we move into the 2013-14 school year.