It’s budget time across Virginia. That means that city councils and boards of supervisors are trying to balance the books for fiscal year 2018. And, as Michael Pope reports, many of them are struggling with the same problem.
How to fund the schools. It’s a perennial problem in Virginia, where the state chips in much of the budget. But since the recession, the state has scaled back its support for local schools. Chris Duncombe is a policy analyst at the Commonwealth Institute.
“It’s becoming an increasing challenge because the state has pulled back a lot of its support on a per pupil basis since the recession," Duncombe says. "We’re about 11 percent down per student in state support.”
There is one bright spot for coal country. This year, the General Assembly added new funding for smaller school districts that have lost students in recent years. Delegate Jerry Kilgore represents parts of Southwest Virginia.
“You still have to keep those schools open and pay the teachers. So that was a big win for the rural southwest, southside legislators," Kilgore says. "We’re going home with some more money for education.”
The cash crunch has been so acute that many school boards have been forced to delay construction and maintenance on aging buildings. That means funding those things could be even more expensive when the local governments get around to paying for them.