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Wise schools expecting drop in state aid

March 12th, 2013 10:20 pm by Steve Igo

WISE — The Wise County school division expects a slimmer budget for next fiscal year, pretty much the story for most school divisions across the commonwealth.

Declining student enrollment continues to underline projected state funding projections for 2013-14. State basic aid is expected to drop $1,047,600 next fiscal year from $19,504,600 this fiscal year to a projected $18,457,000 in 2013-14.

Other decreases in state funding projected for next fiscal year include a $73,500 drop in retirement, from $2,103,900 the current fiscal year to slightly more than $2 million next fiscal year, and $466,000 from the technology initiative.

Total state cut for next fiscal year for the county school division is projected at $1,144,900, from $35,557,800 this fiscal year to $35,412,900 in 2013-14. The total wage and benefits package, excluding food service, Title I and flow through funds, is projected at $45,212,700, down $432,000 from the current year’s $45,644,700.

In other matters discussed during Tuesday’s Wise County School Board session, high school construction projects are reported to be on budget and on schedule. The school division is building new high schools in Big Stone Gap and Wise, and renovating a third in Coeburn under a $60 million bond package.

Schools Superintendent Jeff Perry reported the two new high schools in Big Stone Gap and Wise are on schedule and on budget, and while upgrades and new construction to Eastside High School in Coeburn are a little behind schedule, the contractor there expects to make up time as weather improves.

A new Union High School is being built in Big Stone Gap and Central High School in Wise for $52.5 million, with $50 million of that under the bond package and another $2.5 million provided by the Wise County Board of Supervisors.

There was some debate Tuesday, primarily generated from Betty Cornett, on new lights being provided to the Central High School football field. The old lights needed taken down because of safety concerns. Cornett questioned whether the lights could be added into a change order involving the Union/Central projects under the bond package, and Perry said they can.

The board reviewed the second of two change orders involving the Union/Central projects on Tuesday, both under the management of Ballard Construction. Ballard has offered the school division to take the projects to opening door completion by assuming all finishing touches, relieving the school division of contracting those items out piecemeal, particularly the furnishings, fixtures and equipment (FFE).

The school division budgeted $6 million for FFEs, but Ballard will do it for $4.5 million, including all items within the two change orders. They are not insignificant items, for a whopping savings for the county, and include 5,000 square feet added onto the original structures, larger auditoriums and gyms that can seat 1,500 each, the entire technology package and sod and irrigation for both school sites.

The Central football field lights are a minor consideration within the whole. The $4.5 million is also well within the $52.5 million budget, so much so Perry said the school division is eyeing a potential $1 million-plus surplus, or contingency fund, associated with the Union/Central projects under Ballard.

John Schoolcraft pretty much settled Cornett’s sometimes testy discussion with Perry by his observation the school division gets everything it wants, and even more, including replacing the stadium lights and the works.

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