Dr. Marc Bergin gave the school board an overview of the 2023-2024 school budget last week. In giving his report, Bergin noted that this is a preliminary budget because the General Assembly has not yet finalized the state budget. This will determine how much money the school division will get from the state.
Dr. Bergin said the budget will ask the supervisors for an additional $500,000 in local funds. This money will go to the school maintenance fund. This, along with $600,000 in the school budget earmarked for the maintenance reserve fund, is part of an effort to give the school division a soft landing when the extra $8 million Bedford County Public Schools gets from the state, as a result of Bedford’s reversion to town status, ends in five years.
The proposed school budget grants a 5% raise for all employees. Dr. Bergin noted there will probably be more money for this when the state budget is finalized.
The budget includes picking up the cost of advanced placement class exams and tuition for all dual enrollment classes. It includes reinstating the electrical program at Susie G. Gibson Science and Technology Center and beginning cyber security classes. It also expands middle school sports programs.
District 4 school board member Marcus Hill noted that the median income for Bedford County residents is $70,000 per year. He asked Dr. Bergin to provide information on how many positions in Bedford County Public Schools pay more than this.
When the school board voted on a package of new policies, Hill asked that a policy on heat stroke at athletic events be pulled from the package and be considered separately. Hill felt that it was overreach because it required a student pulled from an athletic event for suspected heat stroke to get a note from a doctor before participating in future events.
The school board agreed to pull this policy out of the package and refer it back to the intergovernmental affairs committee to consider reworking the language. Dr. Bergin noted that Virginia High School League athletic trainers were responsible for inserting the language, that Hill objected to, in the policy.
A motion to award contracts to two companies to repave the parking lots at Huddleston Elementary School and Liberty High School died without a second.
“There is really nothing wrong with the parking lot,” Said District 3 school board member Matt Holbrook, who had gone to Huddleston and looked at the parking lot. He felt that spending this money to repave parking lots that didn’t need repaved was not a good idea when the school board is trying to find money to replace awnings at Liberty High School and Staunton River High School. Repaving the Huddleston parking lot would have cost $128,000. Repaving the Liberty parking lot would have cost $312,000.
The school board unanimously approved a contract with Foster Fuels for fuel. There will be an increase in price over what the school division pays for fuel. Gasoline will rise from $2.70 to $2.75 per gallon. Diesel fuel will go up from $2.64 to $2.90 per gallon. Heating oil will go up from $2.60 to $2,91 per gallon. The price the school division pays for off road diesel will drop. It will go down from $2.99 to $2.90 per gallon.
During the citizen comment period, the school board was chided for failing to adopt a code of conduct for school board members, proposed by the Virginia School Board Association, in January. Another speaker was critical of school administrators saying that most have six-figure salaries.