The Albemarle County School Board on Thursday turned its attention to potentially unfunded capital projects after approving a balanced $186.8 million operating budget for fiscal year 2019.
Rosalyn Schmitt, director of planning and budget for the county schools, said the Board of Supervisors’ latest draft of the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Program would include $35.1 million for a new 600-student high school center and an additional $24 million for both school and county projects.
School Board Chairwoman Kate Acuff sent a letter to supervisors on April 16 to express concern that the CIP did not include a $46.9 million modernization of existing high schools that was recommended by consultants last fall.
“There didn’t seem to be an understanding among the supervisors that our high school redesign projects included the redesign of our [existing] high schools along with the center,” Acuff said at Thursday’s meeting.
The School Board also agreed to advocate for the supervisors to include enough funding in the CIP to support an $11.7 million addition and improvements at Scottsville Elementary School. Scottsville added 60 students this year following the division’s closure of Benjamin F. Yancey Elementary School.
“This isn’t a wish list. This needs to happen,” said School Board member Dave Oberg. “If it doesn’t, it is going to negatively impact our kids. The Board of Supervisors needs to know this.”
The $186,800,503 schools operating budget passed Thursday is a $6.3 million, or 3.5 percent, increase over this year’s $180.5 million budget. It includes a $131.3 million transfer of local funds from the Board of Supervisors.
Jason Buyaki was the only School Board member to vote against the budget.
The School Board had to adjust its budget to reflect the loss of $964,003 in revenues from the state that were expected for next year.
Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s proposed budget included $1.9 million in supplementary funding for Albemarle to offset the impact of the county’s local composite index recalculation partially.
The local composite index is used by the Virginia Department of Education to calculate the state’s share of projected school division payments for the governor’s budget. Factors used to calculate the index include a locality’s true property values, adjusted gross income, taxable retail sales, population and the average daily membership of its school system.
Albemarle’s composite index for 2018-2020 increased by 6 percent, largely due to the 28 percent growth in adjusted gross income of county residents in the two-year period ending in November. School division officials have said a few extremely wealthy individuals were the source of most of the additional income.
Albemarle’s composite index recalculation could reduce the state’s contribution to county schools by more than $2 million — more than any Virginia locality announced through 2020. The budget bill passed by the House of Delegates on April 17 did not include the supplementary funding for Albemarle originally proposed in the governor’s budget.
The school division was able to close most of the funding gap thanks to $2 million in medical insurance savings and $468,450 in additional revenue from the county when revenues were higher than what was budgeted for the first quarter of the calendar year.
The Board of Supervisors also approved a $213,194 increase to the local fund transfer in order to support operations at Woodbrook Elementary School when it opens a 16-classroom addition in August. More than 180 students from Agnor-Hurt Elementary and Greer Elementary will be redistricted to Woodbrook next year.
The $16.6 million expansion of Woodbrook was funded through Albemarle’s $35.1 million bond referendum in 2016. The project was originally budgeted at $15.2 million.
Last fall, the Board of Supervisors passed a budget amendment that gave the school division $2.7 million to cover remaining cost of all bond referendum projects.
The approved budget includes a $235,258 contingency fund that incoming Superintendent Matt Haas could use to meet staffing, program or reorganizational needs during the upcoming school year.
Haas, currently the division’s deputy superintendent, will be promoted following Superintendent Pam Moran’s retirement on June 30.
The budget also adds $80,500 to the School Board’s funding request for a small student center to support project-based learning and internships.
The Center for Creativity and Invention, or “Albemarle Tech,” will pilot Albemarle County’s long-term strategy for increasing its high school enrollment capacity and ensuring equity of access to specialized programs. The division is planning to construct a larger center by fall 2021.
Albemarle Tech will be located in 42,200 square feet of office space at 1180 Seminole Trail. The center will serve 20 to 40 high school seniors in the 2018-2019 school year and will eventually include up to 150 students from other grades. The pilot center has a first-year operating budget of $687,488.
Next year, Albemarle also will become the fiscal and hiring agent for the academic program at the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center. The center is located next to the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.
Albemarle will be fully reimbursed for operating expenses of the academic program with an $894,647 grant from the Virginia Department of Education. The program is currently managed by Charlottesville City Schools.