Supervisors deny schools funding request, approve new ‘glamp’ground and other news

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~ PVN staff report

LURAY, July 18 — Members of the Page County Board of Supervisors voiced concern Monday night over setting a bad fiscal precedent as they denied a request by Page County Public Schools for an additional $519,948 less than three weeks into the new fiscal year that began July 1.

“We’ve had a budget put together…we voted on that budget, and we approved that budget,” District 2 supervisor Allen Louderback said at Monday’s meeting.

“At this point I wouldn’t change a budget we’ve already voted on,” District 1 supervisor Keith Guzy added.

Schools officials say they still need to hire an Alternative Education Teacher, an Electricity Teacher (at the Page County Technical Center), and a Behavior Specialist that were originally included in the proposed budget, but were later cut. The three positions would require $217,009 in additional funding.

Several supervisors were disappointed to hear that the Electricity teaching position at the Tech Center had been cut from the budget, as they believed the position was agreed upon when supervisors set the local funding level for schools at about $11 million.

“We agreed that night that [the Electricity teaching position] was in there…if [the school board] did something different we can’t help that,” Guzy said.

“We give you a chuck of money, but we can’t tell you how to spend it,” District 3 supervisor Mark Stroupe said.

However, later in the meeting, the board of supervisors did just that as they unanimously approved a Resolution to Categorize the FY 2022-23 Page County School Budget. The resolution limits school spending by category, and if the school board wishes to shift funds from one category to another, they must seek supervisor approval. Those categories include instruction ($32.47 million); administration, attendance and health ($2.24 million); pupil transportation ($2.44 million); operations and maintenance ($3.87 million); facilities ($210,484); and technology ($1.73 million).

With regard to monies set aside for capital improvements, state funding fell short of what Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposed budget showed in December. The General Assembly’s final draft of the state’s biennium budget cut back funding for capital projects in schools, resulting in $302,939 less than projected for Page County (about $1.8 million as opposed to $2.1 million). The difference reflects the remainder of the school division’s request on Monday night.

While supervisors denied its funding request, the board did unanimously appropriated state funds totaling $27,403 to Page County Public Schools’ fiscal 2023 Operating Fund. The amount reflects state funds received by local schools above the projected state funding.

Dr. Antonia Fox, superintendent of the local school division, told supervisors that the additional request was not intended during the original budget process, but the process included several unknowns like final state funding. In addition, local schools felt committed to the 7-percent increase, as well as step increases and reclassifications, proposed for Page County teachers. Some supervisors were under the belief that their level of funding had supported a 5-percent increase for teachers, and after setting an amount for the FY23 budget — schools should now simply “prioritize their needs.”

Dr. Fox has told members of the school board on at least two occasions that approaching the supervisors was only one way of trying to find the additional funds for the new positions. Filing grant applications and possibly finding the funds within their own budget were still options.

The local school system is currently anticipating about $1.2 million in remaining funds from the previous fiscal year. However, it may be several months before that amount is confirmed, according to the county’s financial director Tyler Olson, potentially as late as November.

“…the Board of Supervisors should delay appropriating funds for the School Division’s capital projects and new positions until a CIP plan is provided and the remaining amount of School CIP funds from FY 2022 is available,” Olson recommended in a report to supervisors. “…considering the School Division’s three new positions will cost a significant amount, sustainability is an issue with these positions. With inflation, the County needs to be conscientious of its spending, and adding three new positions would create an ongoing obligation. Consequently, using the General Fund Balance for this request would not be a sustainable option, unless additional revenue is generated through taxes or by some other means. These positions could be temporarily funded with School Division’s ARPA funds or prior year savings; however, the financial obligation would eventually fall back on the County.”

In other business at their July 18 meeting, the Page County Board of Supervisors took the following actions:

• Held a public hearing regarding a solid waste revenue bond for the financing of Cell 11 at the Battle Creek
Landfill that drew no speakers. Later in the meeting, the supervisors unanimously approved $6.87 million for the cell’s construction, the purchase of a dozer and miscellaneous financing and counsel fees. Staff members were directed to report any remaining loan proceeds to the board and earmark those proceeds for early debt service payments. During a June 6 work session, supervisors unanimously awarded a construction contract for Cell 11 to the Kanawha Stone Co. with the caveat that funding was secured.

• Held a public hearing on a Special Use Permit (SUP) application submitted by Shenandoah Escapes to operate a campground at 870 Sedwick Road on a 49.65-acre parcel currently zoned agriculture. Campgrounds in Page County are only permitted by SUP in the agriculture zoning district and are subject to the County’s zoning and campground ordinances. According to the SUP application, the campground will include 20 campsites (domes, safaris, tents, yurts, tipis, treehouses or A-frame cabins), as well as a private bathhouse connected to well water and a septic system that includes a bathroom, shower, vanity area, seating area and fire pit. The SUP application notes that campsites will be clustered in groups of three to five with trails linking to each cluster of campsites, a parking area, ponds, forested areas and other amenities. The public hearing drew four speakers, all who opposed the campground, citing traffic, public safety and overall impact concerns, as well as a need to preserve Page County’s farming and rural heritage. Following a discussion, supervisors unanimously approved the SUP request with conditions, including guidelines regarding trash, navigation routes to and from the campground, fencing and signage. Supervisors additionally instructed staff members to reach out to VDOT to request added safety measures at the intersection of Bixlers Ferry Road and Sedwick Road.

• Held a public hearing for a rezoning request by RKA LLC/Rodney Jenkins to rezone 3 acres on the corner of Route 211 East Business and Dry Run Road from residential to commercial. The hearing drew no speakers. Supervisors unanimously approved the request.

• Held a public hearing on budget amendments, including the $6.87 million for Cell 11’s construction and other costs at the landfill, as well as well as the appropriation of carryover funds totaling $35,000 from Pay Tel Communications. The carryover funds are set to be used by the Page County Sheriff’s Office to purchase a new vehicle for the Page County Jail. The hearing drew no speakers, and the supervisors unanimously approved the amendments.

• Considered appointments to the Page County Social Services Board. The terms of Irma Housden (Dist. 1) and Jennifer Foltz (Dist. 5) expired on June 30, 2022. Neither are eligible for reappointment after serving two consecutive terms. With no nominations, supervisors took no action.

• Unanimously approved the Consent Agenda as follows: financial reports for the period of June 1 through June 30, 2022; accounts payable checks, payroll checks, payroll direct deposits and payroll tax-related electronic fund transfers totaling $2,422,322.53 for June 2022; and the meeting minutes of June 17 and June 21, 2022.

• Heard a report from County Administrator Amity Moler that the county is working to begin livestreaming and archiving video recordings of government meetings on the county website through an agreement with Civic Media, an add-on to the County’s website host.

• Heard a report from the county administrator that the county is working to begin taking credit card and debit payments at the Battle Creek Landfill using a hotspot, and that the service will hopefully be available soon.

• Heard a report from the county administrator that EMS staff recently relocated from administrative offices at the Government Center to a county-owned building on South Court Street and that County staff recently completed a landscaping project at the Page County Courthouse.

• Heard a report from the county administrator that the county’s new Department of Social Services Director Kurt Emmerling officially stepped into the role on Monday, July 18.

• Heard a report from the county administrator that installation of the new radio system is nearing completion as the county works to update its emergency infrastructure. The Page County Sheriff’s Office is scheduled to see equipment installation over the next two weeks before a testing period commences.

News briefs taken from notes provided by Page County Communications and Marketing Coordinator Rebecca Armstrong.

To view the July 18 meeting agenda, click HERE.

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