by James C. Sherlock
The FY 2023 budget for Spotsylvania County was $341,355,792.
In increasing the 2022 budget, the Supervisors transferred an additional $5.8 million to schools to “Address the Commitment to Educational Opportunities.”
That brought the total transfer to schools to $138,081,416 including that $5.8 million (4.4%) increase.
It was pointed out offhandedly in that FY 2023 budget document that $5.65 million equated “to a little more than three pennies on the real estate tax rate.”
Most recently in FY 2021, the Schools were allocated ARPA funding in the amount of $22.68 million which Schools’ staff expects to be spent over three fiscal years (FY 2022, FY 2023, and FY 2024) to enhance the learning environment, enhance instructional planning, and enhance learning and growth.
But never mind.
Last night, in what Fox5 described as a “chaotic and disruptive” school board meeting, teeth were reportedly gnashed and garments rent over a potential, not yet an actual, reduction of $5.2 million in state funding for Spotsylvania County schools in FY 2024.
There were lots of interruptions and disagreement between the audience and school board members.
The festival at the school board meeting had an ancient Greek tone to it.
In what was clearly an effort to influence GA members representing Spotsylvania,
Superintendent Mark Taylor announced they may eliminate school libraries and lay off more than 100 staff members if they don’t get the money they need to be fully funded.
In Washington during the cold war such budget maneuvering used to include threatening to cut funding to the “Washington monuments,” the nuclear triad.
Cue the Spotsylvania County Greek chorus.
Parents, students, staff, and education advocates showed up in disappointment that the school district would even consider eliminating libraries as it faces a serious budget deficit.
‘There’s a lot of emotions in the room. Everyone’s upset, everyone’s freaking out seeing the possible choices and some of these are respectfully absurd,’ said School Board Member Rabih Abuismail. ‘I just hope we don’t even entertain them as an option.’
‘It’s hostile. It’s threatening to staff. It’s a turn-off to anyone who might consider employment in our division,’ School Board Member Nicole Cole said.
Bottom line. Hostile! Threatening!
That is called lobbying.
The target was the General Assembly, about to meet again on the budget next week.
To cover the interim between the regular session and the session next week, the GA passed the stop-gap budget measure that was the subject of the drama at the Spotsylvania school board meeting last night.
Ancient Greek tragedians including Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes invented the method. It was linked to Dionysos, the god of theater. He was also the god of the grape harvest.
At Dionysian festivals, there was a great deal of drinking. Worshippers lost control of their emotions.
Goats were sacrificed.
Thankfully, there were no goats at the Spotsylvania school board meeting last night.