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Commentary Open Forum - Winchester Star- School Cuts?

After the Board of Supervisors passed the Fiscal Year 2020 budget including funding for schools, Dr. David Sovine wrote letters to school employees and parents outlining a summary of his budget. After hearing again that the Board of Supervisors had cut the school budget, I wrote a letter in response and asked the school administration to distribute it to the same recipients that had received the earlier letters. Unfortunately, that letter was not sent. Contrary to the perception of some, the Board of Supervisors actually has increased the school budget for at least the last five years.

The Board of Supervisors approved the FY20 budget on April 10, 2019 which included money for education. The total school budget is $218.4 million with revenue from the federal, state, and local governments. This is a $10 million (4.8 percent) increase from the prior year. Frederick County will provide $106.7 million in the coming year with contributions of $86.4 million (operating), $4 million (capital after July 1), and $16.2 million (debt). The total local expenditure is a 7.5 percent increase from the previous year. In the last 5 years, Frederick County has averaged an annual 5.5 percent increase on total school expenditures which is higher than the average 4.5 percent total school budget increase

According to School Board data, our teachers are paid more than the teachers of adjacent counties and more than the average of teachers within a 30-mile radius. Frederick County also pays more to teachers as a percentage of household income than Loudoun County although Loudoun County pays more in dollars. However, their household income is 82 percent higher than Frederick County household income and their cost of housing also is significantly higher.

The school budget provides for the purchase of eight new school buses and other high-priority capital improvement projects. A slight adjustment of less than .25 percent could have provided the additional funding to purchase the additional five buses that the school administration says are needed to meet their 13 bus replacement per year cycle. We are hopeful they will make those adjustments next year.

Many educators came out to lobby for this budget, but we also had calls from others who were afraid to make public comments for fear of losing their jobs. That is unfortunate. Public employees should have the ability to speak in favor of a budget, but those opposed should not have to fear for their jobs if they opposed a budget. That needs to change.

We look forward to working with the School Board to continue to appropriate the money to provide Frederick County students a great education.
Blaine P. Dunn represents Red Bud District on the Frederick County Board of Supervisors.

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