School Board Chairman: City, County Budgets Hit Division’s ‘Needs’ Despite Shortfall

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Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly

Although proposed budgets for the City of Williamsburg and James City County have left Williamsburg-James City County Schools more than $600,000 short of their requested funding for next year, the School Board believes it can work with that figure.

While the county’s proposed budget is $610,000 short of the schools’ request, the shortfall could increase to about $666,000 if the city adjusts its contribution according to the funding agreement between the two localities.

The funding situation of the school division’s fourth middle school also remains unresolved, as the city and county have not yet negotiated a final cost split.

Despite the gaps, School Board Chairman Jim Kelly (Jamestown) said the local contributions were largely acceptable to the board.

“It pretty much looks like it does what it needs to do for our purposes,” Kelly said.

Kelly did not specify what adjustments the School Board would make to WJCC’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 to make up for the gap, saying board members were looking forward to working with the city and county before making any decisions.

Although no joint meetings have been scheduled County Administrator Bryan Hill and City Manager Jack Tuttle say they are in contact regarding school funding. Hill has also invited Superintendent Steve Constantino to attend the Board of Supervisors’ budget work session scheduled for April 15.

Constantino declined to comment for this story.

The rest of the month will oversee a process involving potential cuts on the school board’s side and negotiations between Williamsburg and James City County.

Constantino requested an additional $3.3 million in funding from the city and county for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1. While Williamsburg’s proposed budget fully funds WJCC’s request, James City County’s leaves a $610,000 shortfall.

The joint schools contract between the county and the city lays out funding formula to divide WJCC’s operating request between the two localities — 90.5 percent for James City County and 9.5 percent for Williamsburg.

James City County’s smaller-than-requested contribution would allow the city to reduce its appropriation by about $56,000 to keep it in line with the contract’s funding formula, pushing the total funding shortfall to about $666,000.

Kelly did not specify what, if anything would be cut from WJCC’s budget to make up for the shortfall. A plan to purchase nine new school buses is likely to remain in place, as the three bodies have each acknowledged the school division’s need in that area.

Slightly more than $1 million is slated for the acquisition of nine new school buses to replace vehicles that have hit the suggested retirement benchmarks.

Another $1.84 million would go toward a refurbish of Clara Byrd Baker Elementary School, which both WJCC and county officials view as critical.

The proposed budgets for the city and county also differ on the funding split of the school division’s fourth middle school.

Constantino placed the cost of completing phase one of the two-phase project at $25.8 million, which Kelly described as a “budgetary figure” that could be subject to change.

The two localities included placeholder sums in their CIPs, which cover major construction projects, totaling $23.6 million.

That shortfall will likely be accounted for as Williamsburg and James City County negotiate a split of the construction costs for the new school.

The joint schools contract does not lay out a specific funding formula for new school construction, leaving it to the localities to decide.

Hill included a placeholder figure of $21 million for school construction in his proposed CIP, while Tuttle’s included $2.6 million.

James City County’s proposed figure amounts to about 81 percent of Constantino’s total cost projected by Constantino, while Williamsburg’s amounts to about 10 percent.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold three work sessions and four community meetings on its budget before adopting a final draft at its April 28 meeting.

The City Council is scheduled to hold public hearings on its proposed budget April 9 and 13, and approve the document at its May 14 meeting.

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