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IW schools start budget talks

Isle of Wight County Schools have proposed a $69.76 million budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Student enrollment is likely to be a key factor that will influence budget discussions, said Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton. From a high of 5,630 students in the 2020 fiscal year, enrollment for the 2021 fiscal year declined to 5,396 and anticipated enrollment for the 2022 budget year is 5,388.

Discussions began this month about the proposed budget, which is 0.2% higher than the last one.

“There are just so many unknowns in who will come back, who went to private school, who went to home school. We have kindergartners that never registered because they were hoping to wait a year,” Thornton said. The delay in new kindergartners could result in a bubble of students in that age group, which might also be an issue to consider.

Virginia’s public school divisions are funded through a combination of federal, state and local money. Enrollment determines in part how much money local schools get, “so that’s a critical number as we move forward,” Thornton said.

Here’s a breakdown of anticipated revenue: the school division is expecting about $35.44 million from the state, $26.46 million from Isle of Wight County, about $4 million from the federal government and about $1.5 million from miscellaneous sources, such as revenue from renting school facilities.

The school board has set a public hearing on the budget for Feb. 22 at Smithfield High School. On March 11, the school board plans to approve the budget and on March 31, the budget is due to the Isle of Wight County Administrator.

The board also held a Feb. 16 budget work session, which concluded after the newspaper’s print deadline.