Schools present budget plan in Wise

Stephen Igo • May 3, 2007 at 11:27 AM

WISE - The Wise County School Board presented its 2007-08 budget proposal to the county Board of Supervisors on Thursday, which includes a $750,000 increase in local funds over current year local support of the school division.

School Superintendent Greg Killough prefaced and concluded the presentation with slide shows featuring school personnel and students complete with musical accompaniment, the last bearing the message: "Thank you for caring about us and fully funding our needs."

Those fiscal needs were spelled out by Ron Vicars, the school division's business and finance director. The total operations budget proposal is better than $72 million for next fiscal year, with the state providing more than $40 million, about $1.8 million more than the current year. The school division is requesting about $14.75 million from county taxpayers.

The county schools' budget includes a 4 percent pay raise for administrators, 5 percent for teachers, and 8 percent for support personnel. The $750,000 request in "new" county money for next year would have been $150,000 less, but the school board made a final adjustment to the budget proposal to increase the annual stipend for teachers with master's degrees and education specialist (Ed.S.) certificates. The master's bonus was increased from $1,500 to $3,000, and the Ed.S. bonus from $500 to $1,500.

Other matters taken up at Thursday's workshop session included a public hearing over a proposal to tweak the county's landfill ordinance - which effectively bans private landfills - to enable Dominion Power to construct a place to stash flyash created when coal is burned to provide electricity. Dominion is leading a consortium of eastern Virginia utilities seeking to build a $1 billion, 500-megawatt power plant at St. Paul.

Kathy Selvidge of Wise said supervisors were "being asked to create an exception to the rule" banning private landfills. She said the new plant would churn out 12,400 tons of various pollutants and 1.6 million tons of flyash annually.

"How do you call that ‘clean coal?'" she asked.

Larry Bush of Exeter expressed concern over potential pollution of surface and subsurface water resources from a flyash landfill.

Hannah Morgan of Appalachia said instead of a landfill, Dominion ought to branch out and make its investors even more money. Morgan said the utility should consider using the coal combustion byproducts as a resource. It has long been used as an additive to concrete and to make cinder blocks and bricks.

Braven Brady of The Nature Conservancy said the concerns expressed by the others "are well-founded." He said heavy metal leachates could seep into water resources "at levels harmful to the biota." Brady said the utility also wants a 25- to 30-year landfill, although the plant will probably operate for twice that long, so at the very least the county should demand a 50-year flyash disposal plan from the utility.

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