2010-08-18 / News

Liaison committee sets its agenda for the fall

By Greg Pearson

Jaeckle Jaeckle By consensus, the Joint Board of Supervisors/ School Board Liaison Committee will focus on three issues in upcoming meetings this fall: shared services between the county government and Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS), the 21st-Century Academy slated for the former Clover Hill High School on Hull Street Road (see story on page 3) and safety. The committee, which discusses school/county issues with little overlap on budgets, consists of supervisors Marleen Durfee and Dorothy Jaeckle, school board members David Wyman and Omarh Rajah, Superintendent Marcus Newsome and County Administrator Jay Stegmaier.

Durfee pushed for discussions on CCPS’ operating and capital improvements budgets, but other committee members didn’t endorse those topics. The format of future agendas is being left to Stegmaier and Newsome to devise.

It was, however, agreed that funding is an integral part of most school topics. “Almost everything is tied to the budget,” acknowledged Jaeckle.

Durfee Durfee “I would steer clear of detailed discussions of the budget… because that’s covered by the budget and audit committee,” said Wyman. That committee includes board of supervisors Chairman Dan Gecker, Vice Chairman Jim Holland and Stegmaier with Wyman, School Board member Patty Carpenter and school officials in attendance when CCPS funding is being discussed.

Behind the scenes, county and school leaders want to reduce the contentiousness between the two boards – at least publicly. Spats between the two became common during the past year, mostly as a result of reduced school funding. The potential for disagreement exists again because CCPS spending is projected to decline once more in the budget year that begins next July while the number of students is likely to creep up slightly.

Wyman Wyman Public disagreements could also become a political liability since members of both boards stand for re-election in November 2011. Durfee wants “data-driven, not politically driven” decisions. “We’re going to have to change the way we do business. We’ve always talked too general,” she said.

She reiterated her objections to building additions onto schools that are already under student capacity – primarily in the Midlothian District. School officials have pointed out those projects were approved by the voters in the 2004 school bond referendum.

Before the topics for future meetings was determined, the two supervisors recommended subjects that focused on the school budget and school operations. Jaeckle suggested “school programs and their costs.”

Rajah wanted discussions on topics under the county government’s purview, including economic development, improved rural roads and where Chesterfield decides to locate new facilities.

Future subjects

Wyman wants to explore the possibility “for additional synergy…and consolidation” that would likely reduce school spending. Already, the county maintains CCPS’ vehicle fleet and assists with purchasing, grounds maintenance and legal services.

“What can be outsourced?” Wyman asked.

When the replacement school for Clover Hill High School opens in a few weeks, CCPS will convert the previous building into a second technical center.

The discussion on safety at schools will likely include what precautions have already been taken and their costs. “I don’t want us to be discussing safety after something [bad] happens,” said Newsome.

Rajah wants the county to give more priority to funding youth activities. Effective July 1, Chesterfield began charging a fee for youth to play in county sports leagues due to a budget shortfall (see story on page 1).

“We should emphasize youth violence prevention,” said Newsome.

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