The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors replenished $540,000 to the school district’s budget using carryover funds from the previous fiscal year.
Back in April, the supervisors voted to take away the money from the school budget to fund ball fields in Riner and Shawsville ($390,000) as well as funding for the newly adopted ACCE program ($540,000), which gives qualifying high school graduates the opportunity to attend New River Community College tuition free.
The supervisors’ decision to cut school funding came as a surprise to school board members who had been discussing the possibility of salary enhancements for the district’s highest earning employees just several weeks earlier.
With the timing of the cuts, the school district was forced to increase insurance premiums to keep the bump in salary in the budget.
Additionally, several areas initially part of the school’s budget were completely cut, including a $30,000 program providing internet access to underprivileged students; $104,400 to replace technology equipment; $29,670 for vehicle replacement; $375,400 for school bus replacement; and $204,400 for capital improvements.
At the time, multiple school board members accused some of the supervisors of playing political games, and using the budget as a weapon.
Supervisors Chairman Chris Tuck told the members of the audience, including MCPS staff and school board members, that he did not appreciate the accusations that he and the other Republican board members who had voted for the change in funding (Todd King, District D; Gary Creed, District C and Darrell Sheppard, District E) had acted for personal or political reasons.
The vote went 4-3 along party lines and the ball fields benefited King and Creed’s districts, which was the source of much of the criticism.
“It is perfectly acceptable to question the validity and soundness of a decision,” Tuck read from a prepared statement. “But when you question the morals and ethics of those you disagree with, you can create chasms that no bridge can span, and walls that cannot be breached.”
After the meeting, school board member Penny Franklin (District B), said that while she was glad that the funding was restored, she felt that the ball fields and ACCE funding could have received the carryover over funds as opposed to the school district having to wait on them.
“I don’t like that we had to mess with people’s insurance,” Franklin said. “It is one of the few benefits that the teachers have.”
The next meeting will be at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 at the Montgomery County Government Center (755 Roanoke St., Christiansburg).