School Board honors Mike Altizer, discusses finances

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VINTON–The Roanoke County School Board honored Vinton’s representative Mike Altizer as he attended his final board meeting on October 22. Altizer was appointed by the board to finish out the term of Mike Stovall who resigned in September 2014 to become Director of Transportation with the county school system. At the time he was appointed, Altizer said that he would not run for the post himself.

Mike Altizer will be leaving the School Board in November once Tim Greenway is sworn in  after the Nov. 3 election. Greenway ran unopposed for the Vinton seat in a special election. From left are Altizer, Greenway, and Roanoke County School Superintendent Dr. Greg Killough.
Mike Altizer will be leaving the School Board in November once Tim Greenway is sworn in after the Nov. 3 election. Greenway ran unopposed for the Vinton seat in a special election. From left are Altizer, Greenway, and Roanoke County School Superintendent Dr. Greg Killough.

Altizer will be replaced by Tim Greenway who is running unopposed for the Vinton seat as soon as the special election is certified. The plan is for Greenway to be sworn in on November 9 in time for the next School Board meeting on November 12.

Altizer thanked the staff and the board for their dedication and hard work, commenting that Roanoke County is one of the best managed counties in the state and praising the “quality of the people who teach our children.”

He encouraged citizens to research candidates and vote in the upcoming off-year election when members of the school board and Board of Supervisors are being elected.

“It’s not an off-year election if there are local candidates running,” said Altizer. “Our two boards work together for the common good, on the same page, working for the same goals.”

Board Chair David Wymer commented that Altizer stepped in when the School Board was dealing with difficult budget decisions, the selection of a new school superintendent, and the appointment of a new school board member to replace Drew Barrineau who relocated to the Norfolk area with Norfolk Southern–providing great leadership and “representing the Vinton Magisterial District in a high quality way.”

“You never wavered; you kept your eye on the ball,” said Wymer. “You always did what was best for Roanoke County Schools. It’s easy when you keep that focus.”

“You were here not for a long time, but for a critical time,” said board member Fuzzy Minnix, who represents the Cave Spring district.

Big changes are in store with Wymer (from the Catawba District) and Minnix retiring from the School Board at the end of the year, having chosen not to run again. Jerry Canada will remain on the board representing the Hollins District. Jason Moretz was recently appointed to complete the term of Barrineau from the Windsor Hills District. Altizer said he is confident that the new board will continue to serve the county and its students well.

In other business, Dr. Ken Nicely, Director of Secondary Education, and principal Jason Suhr from the Burton Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT) briefed the board on two new courses proposed at BCAT  for the 2016-17 school year—Cyber Security Fundamentals and Emergency Technician I.

Most of the remainder of the October 22 meeting was spent on a presentation by Penny Hodge, Assistant Superintendent of Finance, on a preliminary unaudited overview of last year’s finances and a proposed calendar for developing the upcoming budget. Compensation and facility use studies are underway which will assist in the process.

Hodge said that revenues exceeded expectations for the Fiscal Year 2015 due to higher than expected sales tax collections ($531,515 over what was budgeted) and state aid to education ($195,750 more). She explained that sales taxes are collected state-wide with one and one eighth percent allocated to the schools, although there has been a change in the state method of collections.

She was also happy to report that the predicted decline in school population in the county because of industries leaving the area did not materialize. School officials had expected enrollment to decrease by approximately 89 students, when in fact the school system “picked up 73 more students in September” than they ended the year with last year.  State funding is based on ADM (Average Daily Membership). The county expects their ADM in March 2016 will be 13,994 students, up from last year.

Hodge and members of the School Board thanked the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors for their continued support of the schools, especially their financial support which is based on a funding formula taking into account changes in population, student enrollment, and local tax revenue. County funding for the schools has remained steady throughout the economic recession.

She reported that school departments under-spent in the past school year to the tune of almost $1.8 million. The year-end surplus amounted to approximately $2.5 million with about $821,000 going into the Minor Capital Reserve Fund and $1.6 million into the Major Capital Reserve Fund.

There was good news from the school nutrition program.  The school board had considered outsourcing, but instead challenged their staff to keep the program within the system. Hodge said that thanks to the innovations the staff came up with, the nutrition program ended up generating revenues, not being subsidized. Wymer said the board felt immense pride in the work of the staff—“people bought in and made it work.”

The bus fund is also in good shape with ten propane buses and five activity buses delivered during the summer.  The laptop computer program has proven to be a great investment over the years and in FY 2015.

Hodge also briefed the board on health and dental costs for its employees. The school system has been self-insured since 1990. Fiscal year 2015 was “a good year for claims,” adding to their reserves.  There was also discussion of upcoming changes with the Affordable Care Act looming in 2018.

Dr. Paul Lineburg, Director of Administration, shared the results of the new Info-Snap program which allowed parents to enter student information online this school year instead of on numerous paper forms. About 60 percent of parents used the new system with most giving the process a 4.72 rating out of a possible 5 (for excellent). Some glitches will need to be ironed out with cross-referencing online and paper forms in this inaugural year.

School Board members will be participating in the State of the County address on November 17.