By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Apr. 7, 2018 | 12:35 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – Next week, residents will be able to offer their thoughts on a proposal to return over $2.7 million in funds to the county school division as part of carryover dollars from the FY2017 financial year during a public hearing.
April 10’s regular meeting of the Prince George Board of Supervisors will serve as the venue for the public hearing where Prince George County Public Schools could receive roughly $2.7 million back after those funds weren’t used during the FY2017 year, with those dollars going toward a number of capital projects within the school division. Those funds would come from the county’s unassigned fund balance, which totaled just under $25 million following the county’s annual financial audit but before subtracting several million in known and potential commitments, which included the expected request for carryover funds from the school division.
In February, the Prince George School Board approved moving forward with their request to the county, sending along a list of projects and items those funds would be used with.
According to documents provided by the county, there are a total of 12 items that the nearly $3 million in unused funds would be used toward, with security being at the top of the list. $700,000 has been earmarked specifically for security-related costs, including funding to place “additional police presence in three” of the county’s elementary schools where a school resource officer is not in place presently – Walton, Beazley, and South Elementary Schools – for the remainder of the school year at a cost of $12,000, replacing doors at several schools, adding cameras to “areas in schools that have been identified as blind spots,” adding monitors for additional security review, and adding and replacing interior locks.
In addition, that $700,000 noted for security funding would provide “fobs to all 34 police officers to enable them to enter school buildings at a moment’s notice,” provide funds for additional infrastructural improvements as needed, and to help pay for “a safety consultant’s fee to identify problem areas and address needs for additional security and safety at all school buildings.”
Along with the security-related items, another $700,000 would go toward technology, according to documents. Among the items, roughly $315,000 would be used to replace “520 devices” each year as part of the school system’s sustainable technology budget, noting that the state allows school systems to use Textbook Funds for devices and just over $208,000 would go toward state-mandated textbook adoptions.
As part of their request, Prince George Schools asks that a “guaranteed [Capital Improvement Plan] fund” of $230,000 be set up to help pay for repairs to the school system’s track which “is currently unusable and has to be replaced.” That work would be done over the summer of this year while students aren’t in school.
Employees would see a reward through the carryover funding request, as those employees who elect to remain employed with the school division for the 2019 fiscal year, which starts July 1, “a bonus of $500 for all full-time employees and $250 for all permanent part-time employees will be given in July 2018 when each employee signs a continuing contract” at a cost of $350,000 for full-time staffers and $50,000 for part-time staff members.
Among the list of proposals is a trio of state-mandated items, including additional dollars to provide special education testing, a vision machine at a cost of $7,000, and a site analysis related to the currently proposed construction of one or two elementary schools sometime in 2018. As of now, the county’s proposed budget features funding to pay for the construction of one school at a cost of just under $30 million, which would be paid for through a proposed five cent increase in local real estate taxes.
Other funds from the carryover request would be used for time, attendance, and payroll reporting upgrades, general maintenance and other furniture needs for Prince George High School and N.B. Clements Junior High School.
Prior to the school board opting to formally make the request to the county for the nearly $3 million in funds in February, members of the school board agreed to add a caveat to their list of items the funds would be used for, with Board Chairman Robert Cox saying the list of projects is “a working document” and that it was important to make clear to the county that their list was “a starting point” and “things can be added and subtracted.”
If the full amount requested by the county school board in carryover funds is approved by the Prince George Board of Supervisors, it would be the largest return of carryover funds in the last four years.
According to county finance records, the most carryover funds the school system has received in the last four years was just over $1.9 million in FY2015-2016 from funds left over from the year prior. In 2015, the school division received only $512,562 in carryover funds back and only $408,000 in 2017.
The matter had been brought up previously by the Prince George Board of Supervisors but was removed from the agenda to allow supervisors more time to review the request as it discussions had been ongoing between the two chairmen and vice-chairs of both boards.
With the budget request being over one percent of the county’s overall budget, state law requires a public hearing be held. That hearing will take place on April 10 at 7:30 in the county boardroom.