Schools brace for "Toughest budget year"

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - With state revenues declining, and local dollars going in the same direction, it's no surprise within Henrico county schools that another tough year is on the horizon.

"We know that things are gonna be tight," said Jennifer Andrews, Henrico Education Association President.

In response to the stumbling economy, teachers and other employees were denied a pay raise this year. And they probably can't count on one next year. But that won't be the only option considered at the central office.

"This is a normal exercise that we do every year during the budget cycle. The difference now is that there's potentially going to be some revenue shortage. So we've got to look deeper," said Kevin Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Finance.

The latest budget for Henrico schools won't likely be released until early 2010, so the public will have to wait on specifics. Unlike Chesterfield County where leaders, this week, projected a revenue shortfall of $25 million dollars.

"All localities, I imagine, are running some kind of scenarios. And we're doing scenarios. But nothing that we're in a position that we're ready to let numbers go yet," said Smith.

While Henrico hesitates to offer similar numbers, there is a sense that this time, is going to be different.

"I believe that this is the toughest budget year that we've had in Henrico history," he said.

But in spite of the economic reality, top leaders have already made assurances about efforts to retain all employees for reasons that include two brand new schools opening next fall.

"Our goal is to keep our jobs. And I know that sounds like a pretty basic goal. But we want to be sure that the people that have jobs, keep the jobs," Andrews said.

School officials won't truly know how their budgets shape up until after the general assembly passes a new state budget. That will be introduced in December and then it would be up for a vote next spring.

 (c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.