Education Funding Vote Postponed

Reappropriation of certain state funding for the Essex County School Division was postponed by the county’s Board of Supervisors last week.

The first issue involved a School Construction Grant Reappropriation Request that was originally submitted in March.

The supervisors delayed a vote on the request as they sought information on how the funds ($1,165,792) will be utilized. The supervisors were under the impression that the monies had previ- ously been spent.

However, Essex Superintendent of Schools Dr. Harry Thomas III informed the Board at its May 7 session that the funds — which were approved for Essex schools by the state last year — are presently in the school system’s fund balance.

“This funding amount has not been used at all,” Thomas told the supervisors. “It is still in the fund balance.”

Thomas said the supplemental funds were set to be spent by the end of the current fiscal year, but that deadline has been extended to the end of fiscal year 2025. He noted the funds can be spent on infrastructure for schools, technology, and purchase of debt service. Thomas said targeted areas for funding usage include purchase of computers and related services, HVAC work, and carpeting.

The superintendent described the approval of the reappropriation as a formality.

“We would essentially forfeit $1.2 million,” Thomas said if the matter was not approved.

“We’re a little confused because we were told multiple times that the money had been spent,” Board Chair Rob Akers told Thomas.

“Yes, (school division financial officer) had indicated it had been spent, but it technically has not been spent,” Thomas responded. “It’s in the fund balance account and you can verify that with the auditors.”

The superintendent also noted that the school system has agreed to provide the county $300,000 for the purpose of bringing broadband Internet here.

“We don’t have a problem honoring the $300,000, but we expected something to have happened (by now),” Thomas stated.

“We’re waiting to see what this is going to be spent on,” South District Supervisor Ronnie Gill told Thomas.

“The auditors felt like this would be a formality as this is money for the school division,” Thomas said. “We didn’t think we’d face any resistance about this because the county does not have to spend anything.”

“The Board is asking for a list of expenses that this money is going to be used for,” Akers stated.

“How we spend it, respectively, is our business,” Thomas replied. “Does the county want to forfeit $1.2 million because we’re getting into the minutiae of how we spend our funds.”

“The appropriation request we received in April was unclear,” South District Supervisor Ronnie Gill commented. “I suggest you resubmit that request in more detail, so it’s a little bit more forthcoming on general categories you plan to use it on. I commend you for going for $1.2 million and we will not forfeit it.”

“We’re happy to find out the money has not been spent because that changes things,” Akers told Thomas.

“We apologize for any confusion, but we do not want to forfeit $1.2 million,” Thomas said.

“It’s not going to happen,” At-Large Supervisor Edwin E. “Bud” Smith assured Thomas.

The other matter dealt with an supplementary funding request via an Excess School Food Balance Corrective Action Plan that involves $157,952.28, none of which involves local spending

Franklin explained that the figure was the result of school food revenues exceeding expenses last fiscal year. She said the funding has been targeted for upgrades to the food service program at Tappahannock Elementary School.

The supervisors balked at approving the figure because the figure conflicted with the excess amount shown by the county’s auditor’s report.

The supervisors agreed to postpone a decision until next month.

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