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Augusta School Board Holds ‘Retreat’ to Plan Budget - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Augusta School Board Holds ‘Retreat’ to Plan Budget

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They call it a "retreat," but Augusta County School Board members cannot get away from the hard reality of another tight budget.

Wednesday, the board got its first look at its finances for the coming year, and its wish list of school renovations. The day-long retreat is the traditional starting place for members as they begin work on a new budget.

A big part of their funding comes from the state, but they're not sure they like what they see. A very early look at Augusta County's school finances shows an extra half-million dollars from the state next year. But most of that is from the governor's proposed salary hike for only some teachers.

"The problem is, the $506,000 we would be scheduled to get from the state government, that would cost us almost $750,000 in order to give the raise to all employees," said Chuck Bishop, Augusta superintendent.

"You hope for some additional, but I'm not seeing it right now. I'm just hoping we don't have to cut any more," said board member Tim Quillen.

The Augusta County School Board has already cut its spending by nearly $12 million over the past four years. That has meant trimming people and programs, and holding off on a growing list of capital projects.

"We still have a handful of schools that have had minor renovations or none at all, so they're much like they were in the 60s," Bishop said.

Those include the aging Cassell, Riverheads and Verona elementary schools. The "pod schools" are a campus of smaller buildings linked by covered walkways.

"The kids are out in the cold moving between rooms and the cafeteria, etc. It's also security issues," Quillen said.

The superintendent does hope for some upgrades, such as new door locks and improved signs, in the coming months.

"There are some small-ticket kinds of items, but they still cost money that -- at this point -- we have not budgeted for," Bishop said.

The school board also looked again at the two options for re-drawing elementary school boundary lines for the eastern part of the county. A final vote on that should come on February 7.

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