Chesterfield Co. public schools bracing for financial setbacks

By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) – At Wednesday's meeting, school board members will update the community on budget setbacks. The latest one - a cut of 50-million to the school district's maintenance program.

The school switch is right now the most visible sign of the district's troubles. There will be nearly $50-million less for next year's capital improvement program. It's funded by the debt capacity the county allows the school system.

"The capital improvement program covers all of our facilities. It's an on-going process to determine when we need renovations, when we need maintenance as well as when we need to have new construction," said Shawn Smith, spokesperson for Chesterfield County Public Schools.

Previous plans to build a new high school are now on hold. The school board wants to consolidate the 3 middle schools in the Chester area. Each is under capacity. Another district-wide option: increase the student/teacher ratio.

"And that's the conversation with the community," said Smith. "To understand not just our needs but to understand the revenues that are available and understanding that at this time, they don't match."

It's a juggling act: 80% of the district's budget goes to personnel. But several aging facilities are in need of maintenance.

"The conversation is not whether cuts are going to be made. The conversation is where there are going to be cuts and this is the impacts it's going to have on our school system and our community," he said.

Expect brighter days for Chesterfield schools five years down the road when the effects of this financial tumble should disappear.

"Education in America and in Chesterfield County is about to change," said Smith.

Governor Kaine is expected to release budget figures Friday. Then it's down to crunching those final numbers. The school district's budget should be ready for approval early next year.

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