Supervisors: No return of unspent funds until joint meeting with School Board

Published 11:04 am Wednesday, August 24, 2022

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Isle of Wight County supervisors have again delayed voting – this time until October – on whether to allow the county school system to keep just over $600,000 in unspent funds from the 2021-22 school year.

The October date is contingent on the outcome of a proposed joint meeting of the supervisors and Isle of Wight School Board, which the county has tentatively scheduled for Sept. 21 at 5 p.m.

The supervisors had voted on May 12 to “set aside” roughly $1.5 million in local school funding, then revoted a week later to return $760,000 to Isle of Wight County Schools’ 2022-23 budget. Then-Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said that was the minimum needed for the school system to hire all needed positions and avoid layoffs.

The School Board had planned to ask for the roughly $812,000 remainder during the spring 2023 semester. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Christopher Coleman, who was serving as Thornton’s interim replacement at the time, told the School Board in July that the remainder would be unnecessary if the supervisors instead allowed the school system to make up the difference by combining an extra $296,457 allotted to Isle of Wight County Schools in Virginia’s state budget with $613,345 in unexpected, unspent local revenue from the 2021-22 school year.

Per state law, any funds unspent by the school system at the end of a school year automatically revert to the county, unless the supervisors vote to allow the school system to carry over the funds to the next school year.

The bulk of the unspent revenue comes from a $478,332 payout from Suffolk Public Schools that combines the final two payments Suffolk owed IWCS for the 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.

Isle of Wight also received an extra $79,726 in tuition for its pre-kindergarten program at Windsor Elementary School and an extra $55,287 in building rentals, Coleman said. Coleman proposed allocating just over $516,000 of the local windfall to the IWCS budget’s instruction line item, with the remaining $97,295 going to transportation to cover fuel costs.

The supervisors were originally scheduled to vote on the School Board’s carryover request in July, but postponed the vote to August only to table it again.

It was my understanding after everything we went through with the schools that all of their needs were met, they were able to do their contracts, they were able to do everything they need to do, and so, seeing more money … I’d rather err on the side of caution than just arbitrarily handing a check of that size back,” said Supervisor William McCarty at the supervisors’ Aug. 18 meeting.

I do not feel and would not support doing anything until we have that joint meeting and, I’ll just say, better accountability,” added Supervisor Don Rosie.