Spotsy School Board weighs proposed budget ahead of vote

by | Feb 6, 2024 | ALLFFP, Government, Schools & Education, Spotsylvania


Spotsylvania County School Board Chair Lorita Daniels cast a vote earlier in her tenure that she still laments. 

“A few years ago, when I voted for a budget that was not a needs-based budget, I got flak from the community,” Daniels recalled during a work session Monday night.  

Daniels and most of the Spotsylvania School Board want to avoid such flak when submitting the fiscal year 2025 budget to the county’s board of supervisors. 

The school board debated during a work session Monday night whether to approve a fully funded needs-based budget or to make preemptive cuts in anticipation of the supervisors not filling a $46.5 million gap. 

School board members Nicole Cole, Megan Jackson, Carol Medawar and Belen Rodas agreed with Daniels in requesting a total budget of $479.9 million, including approximately $418 million in day-to-day operations, an increase of more than $44 million from fiscal year 2024. 

The budget, which was proposed by Superintendent Mark Taylor (who is currently on administrative leave), includes a 5% teacher raise, a 6% cost of living increase and numerous investments in special education as well as other services most of the school board identified as critical. 

“We should present the needs,” Rodas said. “That is our responsibility at this point in the process.” 

Board members April Gillespie and Lisa Phelps argued that the group should take a closer look and only present dire needs to the board of supervisors.  

Gillespie and Phelps noted that the funding gap entering the work session was $46.2 million and that it grew during the gathering. Phelps expressed concern that the supervisors will be dismayed by the gap’s growth, which was initially discussed during a joint work session last month.  

“There are things that are not absolute needs,” Gillespie said. “When I think of needs in my household, I’m thinking of what my household cannot go without to be able to function.” 

Gillespie added that it will feel like a “smack in the face” to the board of supervisors to request more funding after they met last month. She said the supervisors will be more apt to support a budget that was trimmed in advance. She believes if this request is approved by the school board and rejected by the supervisors, it will give the appearance that the latter do not support public education. 

“It’s almost like a reason for people to be able to say the board of supervisors doesn’t support education, that the board of supervisors are carpetbaggers,” Gillespie said.  

Cole said it is an ongoing trend in Spotsylvania for the school board to request less funds than needed because of concerns that the supervisors won’t provide full funding. She said if the school board removes items from the budget, the supervisors will never understand the needs of students in the county.  She also referred to the adage that “a closed mouth won’t get fed.” 

“Even when we presented them [in years past] with less than what was needed, they still didn’t give the money to the school division,” Cole said. “It is not our job to do their job of deciding what to fund for the school division. It is our job to present the needs that we have.” 

As School Board chair and vice chair, respectively, Daniels and Cole will meet with the chair and vice chair of the board of supervisors for a work session to discuss the budget on Friday at the Holbert Building. School and county staff will also participate.  

On Feb. 12, the School Board will vote on an approved budget during its regular meeting, which will be held at the John J. Wright Educational and Cultural Center Museum in recognition of Black History Month. 

The budget will be presented to supervisors Feb. 20. On Feb. 27, supervisors will announce the advertised tax rate. Supervisors will then hold a public hearing on the budget and tax rate March 28 at Courtland High School. April 4 is the earliest date supervisors can legally adopt a fiscal year 2025 budget. Budget adoption is scheduled for April 9.

Subscribe To Daily News Updates

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news from The Free Press

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This