Over the course of the month of April and May, Dr. Kristy Somerville-Midgette, Division Superintendent for Brunswick County Public Schools (BCPS), held a series of virtual meetings with the School Board and Board of Supervisors to address the state of the finances for the division. The faculty, staff, parents, and community were all invited to these virtual meetings for the updates on the results of the Governor’s Budget and the unallotments of funding to K-12 due to the impact of COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.
Dr. Midgette provided information received from the Virginia Department of Education on April 15, 2020 that the school division would receive approximately $1.2 million less in state funding. As a high poverty division, those cuts left Brunswick County at a loss of almost $900 per pupil compared to other divisions that lost $70 per pupil, or 4 to 5 times that amount, keeping those divisions in a better standing than Brunswick.
In the virtual meetings, Dr. Midgette laid out clearly all the factors that contributed to Brunswick County being placed in financial hardship to conclude the current year, projections for FY20, and subsequent years to follow. This impact would be long-standing and difficult to recover from if action was not taken and support not provided.
Dr. Midgette expressed that the financial situation for Brunswick County Public Schools’ current and upcoming fiscal year was the “imperfect storm” with factors all impacting the funding at once. She informed the community that the mitigating factors of the Local Composite Index (LCI) for Brunswick County increasing from .35 to .42 in this biennium and the decline of the Average Daily Membership (ADM) further exacerbated the situation. Dr. Midgette reported that the impact of the ADM of 1487, which was the basis for the BCPS FY20 budget and the loss of 10 students, resulted in approximately $66,675 less in state revenue.
Dr. Midgette reported that the relief slated for BCPS, which would be approximately $664,211.12 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) funds, is a result of COVID-19. Requirements for use of these funds are solely for technology initiatives and learning materials to prepare for remote learning in light of deficiencies in local broadband access. In addition, a portion of those funds are set aside for local private schools. Unfortunately, the CARES funds will now be needed to fill in the gaps of the FY20 and FY21 budgets, respectively.
On Thursday, May 28, 2020, Dr. Midgette and the Brunswick County School Board met to finalize the FY21 budget and to make decisions regarding a Reduction in Force. As a result, the FY21 budget, relative to a reduction in force, resulted in the reclassification of some positions and the transfer of some employees from their current position to a vacant one. The $1.2 million deficit was mostly met by the reduction in force and several other decreases which included attrition (retirement and resignation), a personnel audit of positions to include licensure deficiencies, and a reduction in materials and supplies across departments. Dr. Midgette stated, the only true loss in existing staff would be approximately three individuals. At present, the personnel department is working closely with them to discuss opportunities for interviews in other areas of vacancies within the division.
In addition to addressing the $1.2 million deficit, Dr. Midgette indicated that the division would not fill the director of finance position that was vacated, which she currently has assumed a great deal of those duties during her tenure and has utilized the services of a consultant at a much cheaper rate than a full-time employee. Dr. Midgette exclaimed that in an effort to continue to develop and ensure capacity is built within the division for finance leadership, she will institute a finance leadership academy for interested candidates with the hopes to develop a prime candidate to oversee the division’s finances in the coming years.
As Dr. Midgette concluded each of her addresses and communication with the stakeholders, she offered her unwavering commitment as the division continues to navigate Covid-19. She expressed that her desires are continually on the hope that the economy can gain traction again and the much-needed funds will increase to help the students of Brunswick County. In the meantime, she continually reminds all stakeholders that the division will continue to push forward with the vision of Educating Students, Inspiring Success, and Improving Tomorrow.