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Albemarle government, school division share latest financial plans
Ann H. Mallek, Jason Buyaki, Rick Randolph- Nov. 8 2017
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Credit: Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors held a joint financial planning meeting on Wednesday. From left: Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, School Board member Jason Buyaki, Supervisor Rick Randolph.
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Josh Mandell | Wednesday, November 08, 2017 at 9:50 p.m.

Albemarle County staff on Wednesday gave the county’s Board of Supervisors and School Board an update on financial plans for the upcoming fiscal year and beyond.

Trevor Henry, Director of Facilities and Environmental Services, shared the results of the Technical Review Committee phase of the Capital Improvement Program development process. The committee reviews, scores and ranks funding requests from county departments and agencies.

The committee ranked a $287 million five-year CIP through fiscal year 2023, including $114.3 million for school division projects. The School Board approved a CIP request of $109.3 million in August.

Additions to Crozet, Red Hill and Scottsville elementary schools were among the 10 highest-priority projects on the committee’s proposed CIP.

If these requests were to be approved, the $11.7 million addition at Scottsville Elementary would be tentatively scheduled for completion before the 2020-2021 school year. The $9.7 million addition to Crozet Elementary and the $4.6 million second phase of Red Hill’s expansion would be tentatively scheduled for completion ahead of the 2022-2023 school year.

The potential cost of new and expanded high school facilities recommended in a recent study has not yet been factored into the CIP.

Last month, consultants from Fielding Nair International shared several scenarios for meeting the county’s high school facility needs, with costs ranging from $82.4 million to $138.3 million.

Henry said the cost of two more potential projects — a new middle school and a renovation of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center — also were not included in the proposal.

Henry said multiple school improvement projects funded by the 2016 bond referendum have been completed or are currently under construction. The largest project — a $16.3 million expansion of Woodbrook Elementary School — is scheduled to be finished next summer.

“A complete transformation of [Woodbrook] will happen over the next year,” he said.

Matt Haas, deputy schools superintendent, presented a five-year financial forecast for the division at the joint meeting. Haas will succeed Pam Moran as Albemarle’s superintendent on July 1.

“We do a lot of collaboration [with the Board of Supervisors] — sharing and visioning and problem solving,” Haas said. “There is a real team spirit.”

Haas said county schools staff forecast a $186 million budget for fiscal year 2019. Expenses were projected to rise to $215 million in 2023, resulting in a potential deficit of about $10.8 million.

Haas noted in his presentation that state appropriations to Albemarle County schools have declined from $3,653 per-student in 2008-2009 to $3,254 this year. State funds are projected at 27.3 percent of the division’s overall revenues in 2018-2019.

Supervisor Rick Randolph said he was concerned by the downward trend of federal and state support for the county schools.

“That’s going to be the force we will all have to wrestle with,” he said.

Haas said ensuring equity for all students was Albemarle’s most important goal.

“Schools were developed to create equity in our society,” Haas said. “Albemarle is well-known, around the state and nationally, as a high-performing school division. But not all of our students have the same access to these opportunities.”

Haas said the division has created an online “equity dashboard” to monitor gaps in academic performance seen in a variety of demographic groups.

“It’s a humbling experience to see [those gaps], but it’s also energizing to get into the work around it,” he said.

Albemarle currently enrolls 4,229 economically disadvantaged students, who make up 30.4 percent of the division’s total enrollment.

The school division will spend $37.4 million on special education, English as a second language instruction, social-emotional learning and other special academic support programs this year — a 49 percent increase from 2010-2011.

Haas said the division’s other priorities for the years ahead include expanding after-school and world language programs, and building out the school division’s broadband network.

Haas said the county schools may introduce new bus routes as early as next year to transport high school students to science, technology, engineering and math academy programs outside of the school for which they are districted.

Supervisors Chairwoman Diantha McKeel said the new Jefferson Area Regional Transit Partnership would add a representative from Albemarle County Public Schools’ transportation department to study this initiative and other pupil transportation issues.

The Oversight Committee phase of the county’s CIP development process begins Nov. 20. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to approve a balanced two-year fiscal plan and guidance for the county’s annual budget on Dec. 13.

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