Hopewell school board cuts daycare program
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Mar 8, 2013, 14:27
The fiscal year 2014 budget for Hopewell City Public Schools is nearing completion.
At a special meeting of the School Board on Thursday night, Superintendent John Fahey presented a budget with several cuts that make it $74,800 less than last year’s operating budget. The FY2014 proposed budget is $44.8 million .
For the upcoming budget, Fahey said that REACH, an employee assistance program, will be eliminated, to aid in funding two students at Maggie Walker’s Governor’s School.
One teaching position for the gifted program at Dupont Elementary was eliminated due to fewer students being enrolled in the program. The gifted program at the elementary level includes students from grades 3 through 5, with all students being tested in second grade and leaving parents with the option as to whether or not to have their child participate.
The budget also calls for a request for funding from the city of $238,536, to help fund the proposed 2 percent salary increase for teachers in the division.
Fahey told the board on Thursday night that the budget can be defined by hysteresis, the effects of the past are now effecting the present.
“The effects have been that we’ve been cutting and cutting and cutting over the last five years,” Fahey said. “We are cutting to the tune of almost $5 million when you think about it. Those cuts have caused us to lose employees, lose some services as well as some of the funds we’ve used in the past.”
Ray Watson, assistant superintendent for administration, said that while the budget was balanced for FY2014, it has little to no flexibility. He also told the board that two areas in the budget, the fuel costs for transportation and legal expenses, were under-budgeted.
To that effect, Watson and Fahey made the recommendation to the board to consider cutting the daycare program at Woodlawn Learning Center. Watson said if that program were eliminated, it would save a total of $46,104. He said the school division spends about $51,000 a year on the program and receives back a revenue of about $5,000.
At this time, Watson said only nine children are enrolled in the daycare program, three of the children are 3-year-olds and the rest are 4-year-olds, all of which will move to the elementary schools in the upcoming school year.
“At one point, it had a lot of children and a lot of money came in, but over the years and part of the problem is people today, many of people, need daycare much earlier than we can provide it,” Watson told the board members.
Belinda Piercy, principal at Woodlawn Learning Center, told the board on Thursday night that at one time the daycare program was receiving a $100,000 grant from the Department of Social Services. The grant was available for Head Start parents who were working, in job training or who were enrolled in school.
“If the parents were doing those three things, they could qualify for free daycare,” Piercy said. Now, she said the program has dwindled quite a bit.
For this school year, Piercy said three children have already had to withdrawal because the parents have become unemployed, leading to increased costs for the school division.
“So as a thought of the Department of Social Services, if the parent is not working or in a job training program, they do not provide any funding,” Piercy explained. “So this is why the school district has picked up the funding for the daycare program.”
Piercy said Woodlawn has decreased the amount of space available for the program and enrollment has decreased as well over the years.
“Why are we in the daycare business to begin with?” asked School Board member Larry Joyner. “We’re here to do one thing and that’s to educate kids. Now you know at some point in time somebody’s going to have to take some responsibility, so I can’t understand why we’re involved in a daycare program.”
The board voted unanimously to eliminate the daycare program at Woodlawn and have the savings added to the transportation and legal fees portions of the budget.
Watson also told the board on Thursday the effects from the recent sequestration that went through in Congress on March 1, equaling federal cuts of $1.2 trillion over the
next 10 years, will not hit the school system until 2015.
“And what’s in front of us is I think we can survive next year with basically the numbers that are in there,” Watson said of the budget.