Budget proposal leaves Spotsylvania schools with major funding gap 

by | Feb 14, 2024 | ALLFFP, Schools & Education, Spotsylvania

By Taft Coghill Jr.,
Fredericksburg Free Press

The proposed budget that Spotsylvania County Administrator Ed Petrovich delivered to the Board of Supervisors during a meeting Tuesday night would leave the school division with a $43.2 million gap in local funding.

Petrovich also suggested a real estate tax rate of 75 cents per $100 of assessed value, which would leave Spotsylvania with the lowest rate on the Interstate 95 corridor from Fairfax County to Richmond. 

The tax rate was 77 cents per $100 of assessed value in 2023.

“Drafting this budget this year wasn’t easy, especially in light of sustained inflation and the possibility of a slowing economy,” Petrovich said. “The county has always operated under tight restraints.” 

No supervisors commented on Petrovich’s $825.1 million budget, only thanking him and the county staff for their diligence in putting it together.  

Former Spotsylvania School Board representative Dawn Shelley was the only person who spoke about the budget in public comments. 

Shelley urged the supervisors to consider all the needs of the school division, including requirements for special education and students with disabilities.  

The budget that the school board voted 6-1 Monday night to present to the Board of Supervisors included a $46.8 million gap in local funding. Petrovich’s budget displayed that $152.4 million would go to the schools for the fiscal year 2025, which begins July 1. While technically a 2.4% increase from last year’s total of $148.8 million, it did little to close the significant gap.  

“I know, it’s huge,” Shelley said of the shortfall. “But over the past 12, 13 years, the amount of requests made by the school board but not funded by the board of supervisors is about $50 million. So, think about it this way … Had those gaps been filled at those times you wouldn’t see this.” 

The school board will present its budget to the supervisors during a joint work session on Feb. 20. The decision to advertise the tax rate will be made Feb. 27. Budget and Capital Improvement Plan work sessions will take place March 12 and March 26 in advance of a budget, tax rate and CIP public hearing March 28 at Courtland High School. 

Final budget and tax rate decisions are set for April 9. 

Petrovich noted that schools aren’t the only department dissatisfied with funding. He said the Department of Social Services requested 20 new positions and only received two. 

“You’ve heard from all of our departments this budget cycle and there are several areas where we are not keeping up with our service demands in the county,” Petrovich told the supervisors. 

Still, Petrovich expressed pride in the county’s proposed real estate tax rate, listing the services the county provides with its tax dollars. 

He noted there are 31 public schools, 13 convenience centers with one landfill, 14 parks with 23.8 miles of trails, 218 athletic fields and courts and 11 fire and rescue stations with around-the-clock coverage in addition to several regional partnerships. 

Schools, however, have gone from receiving 57 percent of real estate taxes collected 10 years ago to just 45 percent currently. 

“No one is asking you to raise taxes,” Shelley said. “But your job is to figure out a way to support the schools because they have been left behind.” 

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