Board Hears Support For Shenandoah Schools Budget

Posted: January 14, 2014

At its first meeting of the year on Thursday, the Shenandoah County School Board appointed Richard Koontz Jr. (center) as chairman. Karen Whetzel (far left) was appointed vice chairwoman. (Photo by Kassondra Cloos / DN-R)

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County residents want to see a stronger school system in the next academic year, and many of them say they’re willing to pay for it.

At its Thursday night meeting, the Shenandoah County School Board received public comments on the division’s budget for the next fiscal year, which will begin July 1. Several residents stood up to say they feel that the budget is already underfunded, and they don’t want to see any further cuts.

“Having a strong educational system …  retains and draws and attracts new taxpaying citizens and contributes to the economic development and the overall growth of the county,” said Woodstock resident Darrell Katovsich. “While our school system has performed well under what I understand to be already underfunded budgets, we are at a critical point where future reductions in future budgets will put the quality of the education in the county at great risk.”

Katovsich said he is retired and on a fixed income, and that he understands that paying for public schools means he sacrifices a bit more for the common good. But it’s well worth it, he added, and now is the time for the county to start investing in education instead of continuing to pull back.

Katovsich’s comments were echoed by many other residents at the meeting, including several who identified themselves as parents of children who are not quite school-aged. They urged the School Board to work hard to persuade the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors that a larger budget for public schools is worth the extra cost.

The school system’s budget for the current fiscal year is about $55.9 million. About $23.6 million of that was funded by the county, with the rest of the money coming from state and federal sources.

The division is yet to release a preliminary figure for its fiscal 2015 budget.

Throughout this school year, board members and educators from the district have spoken at meetings about how teachers and administrative staff are being asked to do more with less as costs rise.

All that’s left to cut, according to several School Board members and supervisors, is people. In spite of that, many residents have been vocal at other meetings about cutting the budget for the school system, which they say costs too much money.

But everyone who commented at Thursday’s meeting spoke in favor of making greater investments into the school system, and refusing to cut programs and resources to save money.

The county’s tourism and marketing director, Jenna French, spoke at the meeting as both a county employee and as a parent of a child who will soon enter the school system.

“What people often overlook is the importance of the quality of our school system in the role it plays in economic development for the county as well, and in turn, what this can actually do for our overall tax revenue base,” French said.

Good schools attract businesses and increase the tax base, she said, making it a more prosperous community.

Board members did not comment on the thoughts of those who spoke up at the meeting, but will reconvene for a work session on Jan. 22. Conversations about the budget will continue at least through the end of March; the board is scheduled to approve the division’s new spending plan on March 27.

After the division adopts a budget, supervisors must then approve the local funding component.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the board appointed Richard Koontz Jr. to be chairman and Karen Whetzel to be vice chairwoman. Koontz represents District 2, the Mount Jackson area; Whetzel represents District 1, the New Market area.

The meeting was the first for new board member Katie Freakley, who ran unopposed in November to replace former Chairman Gary Rutz. Freakley represents District 4, the Woodstock area.

Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or kcloos@dnronline.com



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