Budget Time!

It’s the dead of winter that only means one thing for local governments . . .it’s the start of budget season.  For Stafford County, like any other county, it’s always a contentions time.   Last year the stress of the budget manifested itself in a lot tension between the School Board and Board of Supervisors.   This year we all have the goal to work better together and improve the relationship between the School Board and Board of Supervisors.

 

After last year’s budget season the School Board formed the Finance and Budget Committee.  The goal of this committee is to have three members of School Board focus on the budget throughout the year and work closely with the Superintendent and Board of Supervisors in developing the budget.

It is important to understand the budget process to better understand what will be reported in the news over the next couple of months.

Superintendent’s budget

The Superintendent, working with the school administration staff, will develop an initial budget for the school system.   He will present this budget to the School Board.  This year it will first be presented to budget committee.  The Superintendent, doing his job, presents a budget  assuming everything the school system desires can be paid for.  It provides a good starting point to truly understand if money were no object how much would need to be spent to fund everything we want.  Unfortunately this is often interrupted as the school budget and when it’s not fully funded by the Board of Supervisors it causes concern from many in the school system and the public.  The reality is this is the most ideal and essentially a wish list of the school iStock_000032613808XSmall.jpgsystem.

School Board budget

Once the Superintendent’s budget is presented the School Board will start prioritizing the budget and making changes to the budget to reflect those priorities.  The budget will be reduced and the budget will better reflect what the School Board believes the county will be able to fund.   The School Board will present the budget to the Board of Supervisors.  This year this will hopefully be an easier process that will include the School Board budget committee working closely with the Board of Supervisors budget committee.   That will ensure the Board of Supervisors is not blindsided with any surprises in the School Board budget.

County budget

The Board of Supervisors is responsible for passing a budget for the entire county to include the schools.   They are challenged with developing a budget that pays for fire and rescue, county administration, public safety, county social services and schools.   They will make additional changes to the budget, and this is when the tensions typically grow.   They have the difficult task of making decisions that fund priorities of the entire county, which will result in decisions that reduce funding in areas that causes concern for members of the public.  

School final budget

Once the county finishes their process and pass a county budget the School Board will know how much total funding we will be getting and will make final changes to our budget to reflect the funding. 

That is the simplified version of the budget process.  Throughout the next couple of months there will be public hearings, committee meetings, joint meetings and other public information about the budget.   Hopefully before the flowers are in full bloom we will have a budget and we will know what next year will bring for Stafford County Schools.

 

Challenges

This year, like every year we start the budget season with a set of challenges.   The most difficult challenge to overcome are mandates that are passed on to us by the federal and state governments.   These are things that the state or federal government has mandated school system implement and very seldom are the mandates funded.   Like many local governments and school systems this year we are going to be challenged wi1th the effects of the Affordable Care Act.   Healthcare companies are reacting to the ACA by raising premiums and reducing coverage.   We are expecting healthcare cost to rise and put more strain on our budget.   The state has also made many mandates related to the Governor’s Educational Opportunity Institute.  While the federal and state elected leaders mean well they often have unintended consequences in legislation they pass that result in rising budgets for local governments and school systems.

Priorities

The School Board has put an emphasis on improving teacher compensation.  We also want to improved compensation for other employees including service and transportation.   Hopefully setting these priorities will guide our process and we will meet them.

It all starts on Tuesday

The Board of Supervisors Finance and Budget Committee has invited the School Board Finance and Budget Committee to meet on this Tuesday at 2 PM.   As a member of the School Board committee I will be attending the meeting.   At this meeting we expect to give an high level overview of the Superintendent’s budget and hear from the members of the Board of Supervisors what they expect this year to bring in terms of revenue and school funding.  

At the regular meeting of the School Board on Tuesday January 28th the Superintendent will make his formal presentation of his budget.   As the budget season progresses I will make updates here on “School Notes”, so stay tuned!

 

from the Free Lance Star (1/19/2014)

TENTATIVE BUDGET CALENDAR

Budget discussions in Stafford County began last week and will continue for the next few months.

Tax rates, salaries and projects will not be set in stone until the Board of Supervisors approves

a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in July. A preliminary calendar sets adoption for mid-April, but board Chairman Jack Cavalier said he doesn’t want to be bound to the timeline—such as authorizing a public hearing by March 4—presented by county staff.

“We’re focused so much on a date that we have to mail out [real-estate tax] bills. Years ago, we had more flexibility with that,” Cavalier said at the board’s annual retreat. “If we didn’t have a budget, we didn’t have a budget. … The budget needs to be right.”

Here’s the proposed schedule:

Jan. 28: School superintendent proposes a budget to the School Board.

March 4: County administrator proposes fiscal 2015 budget and 10-year capital improvement program to the Board of Supervisors. The board authorizes a public hearing.

March 18: Board of Supervisors holds a work session.

March 25: School Board considers and approves school budget.

April 1: Supervisors hold a work session.

April 8: Supervisors hold a public hearing on the budget, tax rates and CIP at a special meeting.

April 15: Supervisors vote on all parts of the budget.

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@scotthirons tweeted this page. 2014-01-20 08:10:12 -0500
Budget Time! Budget season begins for #StaffordVA. The school board budget process begins. http://www.scotthirons.com/budget_time?recruiter_id=8702
Scott Hirons, Stafford County School Board - Falmouth District posted about Budget Time! on Scott Hirons, Stafford County School Board - Falmouth District's Facebook page 2014-01-20 08:10:12 -0500
Budget Time! Budget season begins for #StaffordVA. The school board budget process begins.

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