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Pullback of federal funding hampers Mecklenburg school budget

SoVaNow.com / September 20, 2017
The Mecklenburg County school budget has taken a hit of more than $216,000 this year as a result of cutbacks in federal aid, Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols told members of the School Board at their regular monthly meeting Monday.

Mecklenburg County’s Title 1 funding was cut by $200,000 over last year, and Washington also pulled back $16,000 in Title 2 grant funding and all 21st Century Education grant money to the county school division.

There is some carryover 21st Century funding for the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, but no new money will be coming in, said Nichols.

The current school budget clocks in at slightly more than $47 million.

The withdrawn federal funding covers programs and professional development for teachers who have a large share of children from low-income families. The programs are intended to help ensure that all children meet state academic standards.

On a positive note, Nichols said the ADM (average daily enrollment) for Mecklenburg County Public Schools is up 121 students over last year. La Crosse Elementary School has received the bulk of new students.

School Board members voted to move forward with a request for nearly $520,000 from the Board of Supervisors to purchase four large buses and one small activity bus for the school fleet.

Last month, members of the School Board’s athletic committee, along with transportation director Bill Mayhew made a formal request of the Board of Supervisors to fund the buses. Instead of purchasing the vehicles, Dale Sturdifen, who heads the committee, said the school division was considering leasing the vehicles for either five or seven years.

A similar request was included in the school division’s 2017-18 budget, but that item went unfunded.

Before supervisors would vote on this second request, Sturdifen was told to reconsider the school division’s plans. Instead of leasing the buses, he was asked to do a lease purchase or a simple purchase.

He was also told that the request must go first to the supervisors’ budget committee and that could not happen until the Board of Supervisors received a formal spending request from trustees.

Nichols said the school division was not asking for new money. At the end of the 2017 fiscal year, MCPS returned just over $1 million to county coffers from its budget.

Nichols said the money would have been used for teacher salaries had they been able to hire their full complement of teaching staff.

In the past, County Administrator Wayne Carter has signaled his preference for the School Board to hold off making large capital purchases until a final decision about school construction has been made.

But school trustee Gavin Honeycutt pointed out that it makes more sense to purchase these activity buses now, while the money was available, and to save the regular school buses from extra wear and tear.

In other business, trustees approved a request from David Martin, Emergency Coordinator for the Southside Health District, to conduct a free drive-thru flu clinic for the general public at South Hill Elementary School Oct. 26.

Martin said there would be no foot traffic through the school. Anyone wanting a free shot would drive to a designated spot, stick their arm out the window, receive the shot and drive away.

“Most patients are through the clinic in five minutes or less,” Martin explained.

The clinic would only operate one day and during the hours when traffic at and around the school was diminished, and is funded by a grant from the Center for Disease Control.

The building in Boydton known as the “In Service” building at 120 Madison Street in Boydton will be returned as surplus to the county.

Nichols said recently the facility, which sits on the site of the former school complex in Boydton, was previously used for storage space. But that space is no longer needed.

Carter was already advised of the division’s plans to return the facility to the county.

Also, the 2019 school budget preparation process is under way, Nichols said before asking each board member to provide the budget committee with their funding requests on or before Oct. 16, the next regular meeting of the trustees.

Nichols’ request to form a new instruction committee, with members Brent Richey and Lindell Palmer was approved and Wanda Bailey agreed to serve on the committee tasked with updating the comprehensive plan for the division.

Students at South Hill and Clarksville elementary schoolsraised over $5,000 each for the Heart Association by participating in heart healthy activities. As a reward, the schools receive coupons that can be used for supplies.

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