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Wise County school budget may see $944K hole filled

Mike Still • Jun 14, 2019 at 2:45 PM

WISE — The Wise County school system budget may see a $944,000 hole filled June 21 after additional discussions between county and school officials.

Wise County Administrator Mike Hatfield told the county Board of Supervisors Thursday that a combination of budget discussions and adjustments to how the county can handle debt service payments helped find a new budget scenario.

Hatfield said the county could balance its expenditures and revenues with a $53.85 million budget instead of the $56.71 million budget plan the supervisors adopted in May for a June public hearing. That $56.71 million plan called for the $944,000 cut to the school board’s $11.87 million local request from the county for operating funds.

If approved, the new plan will allow the school board to operate with its planned $60.41 million overall budget.

More than 60 teachers, school division employees, school board members, parents and students were in the audience to comment on what was supposed to be school budget cuts.

Hatfield said he wanted to correct misinformation on what had been portrayed by some people and groups as a surprise budget cut when the county fiscal plan was announced in May. He said that school officials had been notified about possible revenue shortfalls a week before the school board approved its budget plan in April.

The original cuts to the school budget was made after other county budget cuts were decided for the FY 2020 budget and not because the school system was easiest to cut, Hatfield added.

Thursday’s announcement means the school system will be able to meet the local share of a state-funded teacher salary increase as well as absorb an increase in health insurance rates for employees.

District 1 Supervisor Fred Luntsford, Jr. criticized what he described as “assassination” over county budget action from some residents and from the Wise County Education Association leading up to Thursday’s meeting.

Hatfield said the budget discussions in recent weeks led him to recommend starting budget discussions for fiscal year 2021 with the school system in July instead of waiting until next spring’s budget cycle. He recommended forming a committee of himself, School Superintendent Greg Mullins, two supervisors and two school board members to maintain budget discussions throughout the fiscal year.

Superintendent Mullins told the supervisors, “I am very appreciative and the school board is very appreciative of what the Board of Supervisors has done for us.”

The board later voted to recess the meeting until Friday, June 21, at 6 p.m. at the School Board meeting room on Lake Street, where a final budget vote is expected.

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