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School board to use $1.6 million to restore budget

Washington County School Board members are facing an uncommon scenario in this day and age: After an unexpected $1.6 million infusion from the federal government, they will get to decide which parts of the heavily cut budget they want to restore.
The school system began budget talks with a $1.8 million shortfall, forcing them to put jobs, athletics, textbooks, and buses on the chopping block. The system received more than $800,000 from the county in help, but that still left them $1 million out of whack.
The school system ended up cutting the purchase of new textbooks and new buses in favor of restoring coaching supplements, athletic directors, two nurse positions and two instructional assistant positions.
The additional $1.6 million comes from the federal Education Jobs Bill. It was announced at a recent Board of Education meeting.
Although school officials haven’t submitted a proposal to the board yet, Director of Schools Ron Dykes said he is hoping to use the funds for a one-time expenditure.
“We’ll use some of that to hopefully free up some local funds, and either continue some of our programs or personnel that we put in place with the [original] stimulus funds, and continue some of those for an additional year,” he said. “We may be able to use it for some one-time expenditures, such as buses.”
Dykes said board members have to be careful about using one-time funds for personnel, because although a salary is recurring, the funds are not.
“It wouldn’t be prudent,” Dykes said. “We’d run right back into the same position next year.”
School Board Member Mary Lo Silvers said she would love to reinstate positions that had been cut, but would follow Dykes’ advice.
“In light of that, we should look to textbooks, because they’re just so very important, and buses, oh we’re in very deep trouble on buses,” Silvers said. “We’re going to need so many within two or three years, it’s just about essential we buy one or two.”
Dykes said using the funds for textbooks would be “investigated.” He is hoping this year’s adoption of English and foreign language books, which was put off in budget discussions, will be partially paid for with the funds.