Supervisors shelve action on school board’s carryover funds request

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: January 27, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.

PRINCE GEORGE – County supervisors opted to forgo action on a request from Prince George County Public Schools to re-appropriate unspent funds from the previous fiscal year to this one during their first meeting of 2019.

In a narrow 3-2 vote, with board chairman Donald Hunter and supervisor Marlene Waymack dissenting, the Prince George Board of Supervisors voted to keep the $580,000 in carryover funds requested by the school division in their fund balance for the time being, much to the seeming dismay of members of the county school board who were in the audience when the vote was conducted.

In what has become an annual ritual of late in the county, the school division has approached the county during the second half of the fiscal year, which runs through June 30, to request funds that went unspent during the previous fiscal year be reallocated to the school system to tackle a variety of projects. 

This year, according to county documents, the county school board approved a motion to request $583,616  in carryover funds from the county from the 2018 fiscal year. 

Of the last four fiscal years prior to the present, the school board has received as little as $408,239 during FY2017, to as much as $1.9 million in FY2016. 

The amount finally received can differ from the amount requested by the school board at the time of their motion. Last year, the school division requested $2.7 million in carryover funds, which resulted in several meetings where supervisors worked to make sense of the request and how the funds would be spent. 

According to school officials, those dollars would’ve been used on capital improvements, security, technology, and also bonuses for both full- and part-time staffers.

It was eventually decided that the school division would receive just over half their requested amount – $1.6 million – and those funds would be used for state-mandated and security purchases and the vast majority would go into the county’s capital improvement plan budget. Another $254,000 was appropriated during the current fiscal year to help  “assist with reducing employee health insurance contributions,” county documents at the time details. 

Last summer, at the start of the current fiscal year, the county also agreed to pay off the school division’s outstanding utilities loan using carryover funds from FY2017, totaling $654,379.94. 

At their meeting, supervisors were provided a letter from the school division that details how this year’s request for $583,616 in carryover funds would be used across the school division.

According to that letter, roughly $120,000 would be used in the technology category for “wireless infrastructure to address issues and improve upon the division’s wireless connectivity and meet the state’s requirements for testing.”

That funding will also address the prevention of denial-of-service or DDoS attacks, which can flood bandwidth and cripple computer networks. 

The remainder, just over $463,000 would go into the operations and maintenance category for several facility-related projects, such as HVAC repairs at Moore Middle School, division-wide roof maintenance, electrical switch gears at each of the county’s schools, along with electrical work, new plumbing fixtures, and paving work at Prince George High School.

During their meeting earlier this month, little discussion was had regarding the funding, with Supervisor Alan Carmichael asking should the county opt to do nothing in regards to the request for funding, will those dollars remain in the county’s fund balance, which Deputy County Administrator and finance lead Betsy Drewry confirmed they would. 

Unlike last year, this proposal from the school board to the board of supervisors will not require a public hearing. This year’s request of $583,616 falls below the one-percent of the county’s operating budget threshold that would require a public hearing by state law. 

In regards to this year’s carryover funding request, the matter was not part of the Jan. 22 agenda and no timetable for its return to the board for discussion has been revealed. 

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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