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LCS board passes modified budget, division implements hiring freeze

LCS board passes modified budget, division implements hiring freeze

Only $5 for 5 months

The Lynchburg City School Board unanimously voted at its Tuesday work session to approve a revised version of its 2020-21 budget.

The newly approved budget totals about $98 million — $4 million less than the budget the board approved in March.

In addition to delaying raises and pay scale increases, LCS Superintendent Crystal Edwards said the division evaluated its open positions and determined it would place a hiring freeze on many of its open positions such as additional school counselors, bus drivers, an athletic trainer, a social worker and more personnel that originally were included in the 2020-21 budget.

Edwards said division administrators looked at which open positions needed to be filled right now and which ones they could wait to fill until they see how many students will be in LCS buildings in the fall and what student and staff schedules will look like. School likely will look much different when students return in the fall, and the division is exploring the option of having staggered student schedules and using both online and in-person instruction.

“One of the things that I felt very strongly about is trying to make adjustments without having layoffs, riffs and people losing their jobs,” Edwards said.

In order to do as little harm as possible to any one area, Edwards said the division made cuts across the major categories of the budget, including instruction, administration, technology and transportation.

The newly approved budget projects the division will receive $56.5 million in state funding — more than $1 million less than the $57.9 million projected in the schools’ 2020-21 budget adopted in March.

At its March 31 work session, the school board approved the superintendent’s proposed $102 million 2020-21 budget, which asked for level funding of just more than $42 million from the city for the fourth consecutive year.

Following weeks of discussion with LCS administrators, Lynchburg City Council voted at its May 26 meeting to approve $39.8 million in funding for the 2020-21 financial year — $2.2 million less than the division originally requested from the city.

The original budget, Edwards said, was drafted before the coronavirus pandemic began. Once funding levels changed and the division began to see the state and local impact of the pandemic, division leaders modified the original budget to better plan for the effects of the pandemic.

Edwards said the division hopes to revisit salary increases, filling positions, tuition assistance and other programs in the fall as it receives more accurate revenue estimates.

“While COVID and the additional cuts we experienced have kind of taken us back a little bit from that, we’re still hopeful once we come out of this that we’ll revisit those things,” Edwards said.

The approved 2020-21 budget allots $1.2 million less in the transportation category than the 2019-20 budget. Board member Atul Gupta asked for assurance from the division that student transportation and safety would not be compromised, and Kim Lukanich, chief financial officer for the division, said that decrease is primarily in the area of bus purchases and that student services or safety will not be sacrificed.

Several board members thanked Edwards and her team for their work on reorganizing the 2020-21 budget.

“This has truly been a marathon and not a sprint this year,” board member Robert Brennan said.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for July 7 at 5 p.m.

Jamey Cross covers education. Reach her at (434) 385-5532.

Jamey Cross covers education. Reach her at (434) 385-5532.

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