IWCS: ‘set aside’ funding no longer needed

Published 7:21 pm Friday, July 22, 2022

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Isle of Wight’s School Board no longer expects to need the roughly $812,000 county supervisors voted to “set aside” in May from the school system’s 2022-23 budget.

Virginia’s now-approved state budget allocates Isle of Wight County Schools $296,457 more than the school system had anticipated. According to acting Superintendent Dr. Christopher Coleman, the school system received an additional $613,345 in unexpected local revenue during the 2021-22 school year, bringing the combined state and local windfall to just over $900,000.

The bulk of the local surplus comes from a $478,332 payout from Suffolk Public Schools, which combines the final two payments owed to IWCS from liquidation of the two school systems’ Pruden Center partnership.

In 2016 and prior, IWCS would send students interested in taking career and technical education courses to Suffolk’s Pruden Center, though few Isle of Wight students took advantage of the opportunity. In 2017, IWCS pulled out of the Pruden Center in favor of a multimillion-dollar renovation to add in-house career and technical education facilities at Smithfield and Windsor high schools. According to Coleman, Suffolk Public Schools also found additional money in its 2022-23 and opted to pay in full the amount owed to Isle of Wight.

In addition to the Pruden payout, Isle of Wight received $55,287 more than it had expected in building rentals and an extra $79,726 in tuition for its pre-kindergarten program at Windsor Elementary School.

Coleman proposes to allocate just over $516,000 of the local windfall to the IWCS budget’s instruction line item, and the remaining $97,295 to transportation to cover the increased cost of fuel.

The move, coupled with the additional state funding, would fulfill Isle of Wight County Schools’ original budget request for the 2022-23 school year without having to ask for the remaining set-aside, Coleman said.

County Administrator Randy Keaton had initially proposed a $27.2 million contribution to Isle of Wight County Schools for 2022-23, amounting to a nearly $527,000 increase over what the county had contributed last school year. But on May 12, county supervisors voted to cut roughly $393,000 and “set aside” an additional $1.5 million. The move prompted pushback from then-Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton and the School Board, who were ultimately successful in persuading supervisors to return $760,000 of the “set aside” funding to the school system on May 19, leaving around $812,000 still withheld.

“We have saved the citizens some money,” said Chairwoman Denise Tynes.

Isle of Wight supervisors will still need to sign off on Coleman’s request to carry over the $613,345 from last year’s budget to the budget for the current school year.