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Berkeley Co. school board approves budgets

May 24, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The Berkeley County Board of Education voted 4-0 Monday to approve budgets for the 2010-11 fiscal year totaling more than $170 million after receiving no comments about the spending plan during a public hearing.

Board President William F. Queen was absent.

The budgets approved were a general fund budget of about $143 million, a $21.9 million special revenue (grants and restricted) fund budget, $6.8 million debt-service budget (for school construction bonds) and a special revenue budget of about $5.7 million in federal money received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The school board approved the use of about $2.5 million in "carryover" funding from the current fiscal year to balance next year's general fund budget, which school system financial consultant Jim Welton said should not be done year after year.

"Projections for the following year are even worse," Welton said of the county school system's tight budget situation.

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Earlier this month, Superintendent Manny P. Arvon said cost-cutting measures needed to be taken to offset a projected $1.5 million decrease in tax revenue that is generated by the voter-approved excess levy. The levy generated about $30 million for the current year, Arvon said. Arvon said it was the first such revenue decrease in his more than 13 years as superintendent.

Knowing things were going to be tight, Arvon said the administration took steps beginning last year to save money, resulting in the carryover money.

To cut costs going forward, one administrative position at each high school was eliminated and one central office job is being left vacant, Arvon said.

The high school jobs helped each school with truancy, attendance and overall security, Arvon said.

County voters have regularly approved the excess levy to support the school system's operation for more than 50 years and it is up for renewal next year. The excess levy money generated has been used to fill a gap in funding for special education, which is not adequately funded through the state's school aid formula, Arvon has said. The levy also provides supplemental pay for teachers and had typically increased by $2 million or $3 million annually, Arvon said.

For next year, Welton said Monday that the ARRA funding was offsetting a cut of about $5 million in state aid.

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