Chesterfield schools expect $20M-$30M budget shortfall

By Laura Geller - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Chesterfield Public Schools is expecting a $20 million to $30 million shortfall for the next school year. Parents and teachers are already worried as the school system starts to figure out what can go on the chopping block.

Chesterfield's superintendent sent a letter to teachers and staff notifying them of the grim situation. While the system now has a figure to consider, a lot is still up in the air and no specific cuts have been suggested just yet.

"Nothing else can go," said parent Merinda Randolph.

She cannot imagine another $20 million to $30 million taken out of her first grade son's classroom next year. It is especially difficult to imagine when she thinks about the $32 million the schools were forced to cut for the current school year.

"They need everything. They need a lot more resources than what they already have, so nothing else can go," she said.

There's no telling what this means for students who attend Chesterfield schools. It's anyone's guess at this point whether the cuts include fewer clubs and sports, no new textbooks and school supplies or actual personnel cuts to staff and teachers. In his letter, Superintendent Marcus Newsome wrote: "Our most important resources are our human resources. Therefore, we will maintain our efforts to preserve as many jobs as possible."

The reality is though; eighty percent of the school budget comes from personnel salaries and benefits.

"There's nothing good that can be cut.  The easy cuts were made in the past. We've already cut lots of things that are ancillary to the education process," said Frank Cardella of the Chesterfield Education Association.

Right now any numbers are projections. There's no actual budget on paper.

"It's the beginning of the budget cycle. No decisions have been made. Everything's on the table," said Chesterfield public schools spokesman Shawn Smith.

Much of the final shortfall total will depend on what funding is included in the governor's budget. That's expected in December. Looking even further into the future, Chesterfield estimates $10 million to $15 million in cuts for the 2012 school year.

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