It was a long day for Westmoreland County School Board members as they visited Washington & Lee High School and tackled one of their busiest challenges every year: school budgets.
On Feb. 25, the board members learned that what would be a hard budget to construct will be even more difficult as an estimated revenue shortfall became greater and the anticipated decrease in federal funds dropped even lower.
Superintendent Rebecca Lowry could only sigh when the subject came up for discussion.
According to the presentation provided to the board, an anticipated 5.9 percent decrease is estimated in federal funds along with a 2.25 percent loss in state funds, 6.35 percent in local funds and a 12.3 percent increase in health insurance costs. The board also learned that the school system could also face a projected revenue decrease of $1,952,675.75.
With the school system receiving funding in the past based on its student enrollment, or annual daily membership (ADM), reports also show the number of students in school continues to decrease. The Budget Control Act of 2011, which government officials are suggesting could happen, will limit the amount of spending to avoid the nation going into further debt.
“The Budget Control Act of 2011 (sequestration) will most likely go into effect which means across the board cuts in federal allocations to many programs for at risk children, social programs, defense cuts etc…all having either a direct impact or an indirect ripple effect,” said Lowry. “The county continues to have either stagnant or declining revenues and also faces the uncertainty of the sequestration effect which will in turn result in ripple impacts to school funding.”
Lowry said she and her staff were asked to prepare two budgets by county officials, one for five percent cuts
and the other, level funding, which requires the same budget from last year.
After discussing the budget and visiting the high school, board member Daniel Wallace was recognized for his service as the school board chairman for five-straight years. Board member Iris Lane succeeded him after a 3-1 vote.
“You have done a wonderful job in being extremely committed to the education of kids of Westmoreland County,” said Lane.
In the moments following the meeting, the members were recognized in honor of school board appreciation month. Linda Dillard was also honored in respect to clerk appreciation month. Representatives of the four schools presented them with gifts and special presentations including a singing performance by Patricia Jackson.