State Government Stalemate Affecting Local Budget Decisions
Planning the Charlottesville city budget comes with a catch. State lawmakers are still locked in a stalemate over their spending plan. That leaves localities and schools with more than their fair share of uncertainty and some hard decisions to make.
When you're trying to figure out how you're going to spend your money, it helps to know how much money you're going to have. But without a state budget, schools and localities are in a tough spot, waiting for phantom funding tied up in a political fight.
“My concern grows deeper each day that we don't have a budget,” said Dr. Rosa Atkins, superintendent of Charlottesville City Schools.
School officials' concerns are shared by many across the commonwealth.
Hung up on political differences and the debate over healthcare expansion under the Affordable Care Act, state lawmakers have yet to finalize Virginia’s two-year, $97 billion budget.
The Richmond gridlock is hitting hard in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
“It's frustrating that they couldn't get this done during the regular session,” said Kristin Szakos, Charlottesville city councilor.
“It's like a cloud hanging over local government's head,” said Ken Boyd, Albemarle County supervisor.
Local leaders across Virginia are forced to continue planning their budgets, still unsure just how much money they'll get from the state.
“We're going to move forward with our budget process,” said Boyd.
“A lot of it is going to be guesswork. We have to figure out what we think is going to happen, what to do if it doesn't happen,” said Szakos.
If it doesn't happen, it would be the first time in Virginia history lawmakers failed to pass a state budget on time, with the biggest impact falling on public schools.
“The school budget is not final until the General Assembly passes a budget,” said Atkins.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County schools count on the state for about a quarter of their overall funding. If the stalemate continues through the spring, it could prevent schools from issuing contracts to teachers and service workers.
“It puts a lot of anxiety on everyone, from the school board down through our employees, our students and our families in the county,” said Ned Gallaway, Albemarle County School Board member.
“We will be seeking legal counsel to give us guidance on our next step,” said Atkins.
Lawmakers will return to Richmond March 24 to take another stab at striking a deal.
“The whole thing is a little stressful for everybody,” said Szakos.
“Make some decisions that will allow this budget to go forward,” said Atkins.
“Everybody's indicating that this is going to be a long fight,” said Boyd.
Charlottesville and Albemarle are scheduled to adopt their budgets in mid-April, but many think the state budget stalemate could continue into May, or even June. Without a compromise by July 1, schools and localities would be left holding the bag.
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Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science.Full Story
Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science. Email/Follow on Twitter/ Full Story
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