Two portions of the Virginia budget approved last week in conference committee between the House of Delegates and State Senate provide funding for a new pilot mechatronic engineering program at Botetourt Technical Education Center (BTEC) and an extra $153,580 for the county school division because of declining enrollment.

The mechatronics program funding will come in the next fiscal year that starts July 1, while the additional funds for a declining enrollment are for the current fiscal year.

BTEC is now slated to be the first secondary school in Virginia to offer a mechatronic engineering program for high school students.

School Superintendent John Busher announced the possibility last month when Del. Terry Austin submitted an amendment to the state budget that included $310,000 for faculty accreditation and equipment for a pilot first-year mechatronic technician course in a partnership with BTEC and Virginia Western Community College (VWCC). The funds are in the community college portion of the state budget.

The program will meet a need for employees for the new industries coming to Botetourt.

The program goal is to prepare 100 mechatronic engineering technicians over five years and a sustainable faculty preparation program.

This amendment provides funding for faculty accreditation and equipment for the pilot mechatronics technician program.

The Botetourt school division will be the recipient of an additional $153,580 from the state as part of the “Small School Division Enrollment Loss Fund” that’s included in the approved House/Senate budget.

School divisions that have fewer than 10,000 students and have lost 5 percent or more in enrollment (daily average membership) between March 31, 2011 and March 31, 2016 will receive an apportioned allocation from the nearly $7.3 million set aside for the program that will award from $75,000 to over $400,000 to 42 school divisions. Those include neighboring Bedford County, Craig County, Alleghany County and Buena Vista City.

The special funding is designed to offset the loss of state per-pupil funding that small school divisions cannot make up by consolidating services and facilities.

— Ed McCoy