2010-10-06 / News

School system faces budget shortfall for FY12

By Donna C. Gregory
News Editor

Newsome Newsome Next year’s budget outlook for the school system is still in the red, but there’s already a plan to bring it back into balance – as long as the powers that be cooperate. According to the latest projections, Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) is looking at a $27.1 million shortfall for FY12 (starting July 1, 2011), caused by a reduction in county revenue, the elimination of onetime funding and an increase in the cost of employee benefits.

State revenue is anticipated to tick upward slightly at $1.6 million, while the county’s contribution is expected to drop by $8.7 million. A one-time $12 million allocation of surplus funding from FY09 will disappear. Employee benefits, mainly health insurance and Virginia Retirement Service contributions, are going up by $8 million.

Altogether, FY12’s operating fund is projected at $490.7 million, down from $517.8 million in FY11, the current budget year.

CCPS hopes to fill that $27 million deficit by:

• Using $12 million in one-time funding through the federal Jobs Bill

• Using $9.5 million in surplus funds from FY10

• Saving $5.6 million by not filling vacant positions

The concern, however, is that all three of these funding sources are dependent on the actions of others.

First, the Jobs Bill funding will need to be approved by Virginia’s General Assembly, and there’s a chance the state may use the funding to help relieve its own budget deficit.

“They could reduce the state funding to public education in an equivalent amount, in essence offsetting those numbers. We hope that will not happen, but we want to be conservative and make sure we know the direction of the governor and General Assembly as we try to make some difficult decisions for FY12,” said David Myers, assistant superintendent of business and finance.

If the Jobs Bill funding comes through intact, it will save the jobs of 240 full-time CCPS employees.

Secondly, the county’s board of supervisors will need to reappropriate FY10’s savings back to CCPS.

Last year the supervisors returned $12 million in surplus funding from FY09 back to CCPS to help offset FY11’s budget shortfall. But that appropriation came after some harsh words by supervisors who questioned CCPS’ spending priorities.

CCPS’ third strategy to save money by not filling vacant positions is heavily dependent on people giving up their jobs – something many may be wary of doing given the current economy.

“Those vacated positions could be people who are working in their one year of supplemental retirement. Also, there may be other positions where people leave the school system or retire,” said Myers.

The savings of $5.6 million translates into approximately 112 positions based on an average annual salary of $50,000 with benefits. Myers said that number of vacancies is achievable for FY12.

“The numbers are certainly not on the magnitude that we’ve dealt with the last two years, but there’s still a shortfall of $27 million. Even this scenario is still using over $20 million in one-time funding,” said Myers.

While a tentative plan is in place for FY12, the financial outlook for FY13 is even more uncertain. All three of CCPS’ strategies to plug the hole in FY12 are one-time fixes, meaning that money won’t be there in FY13.

Superintendent Marcus Newsome expressed his concern when discussing the Jobs Bill funding during a school board meeting last week: “The concern is it’s temporary, and it only lasts for one year. We cannot depend on it for a long-term investment. This just creates another hole for 2013 if we don’t receive additional dollars.”

CCPS will hold a pre-budget public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m., in the county’s public meeting room, 10001 Iron Bridge Road.

Enrollment down

Student enrollments are projected to be down once again this year. According to Myers, preliminary figures last week indicated 266 fewer students are attending CCPS this school year compared to 2009-10. The school system had projected it would actually add 186 students.

Some of the factors leading to the reduction in enrollment include:

• There were fewer kindergartners this year than anticipated.

• Some schools on the fringes of the county saw drops in enrollment. Myers speculated that some of those students may have lived in neighboring localities and are no longer crossing the border to attend CCPS.

• Cosby High School was expected to add 125 students, but it didn’t. In contrast, the new Clover Hill High School added more students than projected.

Official enrollment projections will be available later this month.

County and state funding, FY05-11 (in millions)

State Local  
FY05 $220.4 $205.6  
FY06 $234.5 $221.7  
FY07 $277.6 $235.3  
FY08 $288.5 $257.9  
FY09 $318.4 $260.2  
FY10 $289.3 $249.4  
FY11 $255.8 $233.1  

CCPS operating budgets (in millions)

FY09 $594.5  
FY10 $571.6  
FY11 $517.8  
FY12 $490.7*  


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