Franklin County school leaders say declining enrollment means less spending

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) - Thanks to a sharply declining student population, the Franklin County School District says it's going to have to make significant budget changes.That likely means less money for things like field trips and substitutes.

Superintendent Dr. Mark Church said hey know their student population has been in decline, but say it fell even more this year than anticipated.
That means fewer state dollars, and a tightening up on spending not deemed absolutely necessary.

"We have to make cuts," Church said. "We're trying to make them as doable and as painless as possible."

Church said his district, like many others, is now having to do more with less.

"But you have to use the resources you have available."

He says the district recently went before the County's Board of Supervisors seeking budget transfers for the coming school year.
The district got money for capital projects like asphalt repairs, IT upgrades, and new school buses,
But the district needed about $144,000 more to install AC units in the cafeterias at Boones Mill and Burnt Chimney Elementary schools.

The district asked the county for the money, but the Board of Supervisors declined an additional appropriation and instead instructed the district to take the $144,000 out of a carryover fund from last year.

But district Finance Director Dave Terry said they wanted to use that carryover money on instructional spending instead. That's because they're seeing a steeper decline in enrollment than anticipated.

"This year the results were more dramatic so that led to reductions over and above what we had planned for," Terry said.

Because the state pays districts per student, Church said the district anticipates about $400,000 less in state funding. That means the district is left to make up for the shortfall with internal cut-backs to save money.

"So it'll be in the form of possibly not hiring people who have left during a part of the year and any operational items which we have control over for the next six months," Terry said. "Because honestly going through half of the year, we're somewhat limited in what we can do."

For students and teachers, it means fewer field trips, less spent on substitutes and tutoring.

Plus, Church says the state doesn't pay out what it used to pre-recession, leaving counties to fund the lion's share of their schools.

"The business at hand goes on and we still have to teach," he said. "And we're gonna be there but the things that we can cut, we're going to."

Dr. Church said this tightening will carry over to next year's budget, which could mean bigger classroom sizes and shuffling teachers around. But he also said not doing these capital improvement projects now could cost more in the long run.

He'll go before the Board of Supervisors again next Tuesday, outlining how they plan to use the rest of those carryover funds on projects district-wide.