At a recent meeting of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, Chairman Mark Dudenhefer (R-Garrisonville) made a stunning statement. He suggested that Republicans could look to make further cuts in the adopted FY’11 by withholding a percentage of county funds (a.k.a. holdback funds).
With the 7 percent holdback, they will have an opportunity to actually affect that budget by impacting that holdback of funds.
He made this statement in reference to Supervisor Susan Stimpson’s (R-Falmouth) statement that she was going to vote against the budget, since she wanted even deeper cuts. He suggested that this was still possible, even after passage, by not appropriating a portion of the holdback funds.
This is in sharp contrast to prior board precedent with regards to the purpose of holdback funds. The intent of holding back a percentage of funds appropriated to the county government and schools has been to avoid the situation where expected revenue is revised downward at the mid-year and it no longer supports the same level of budget expenditures. To me, it certainly makes good fiscal sense to hold back a certain percentage of funds, pending a mid-year review, although I would have required more justification on why 7 percent; however, I am deeply opposed to using this holdback as a way to affect adopted budgets outside of the normal budget process. This smells of politics at its worse.
This also presents significant problems for county government and the school system. They are essentially operating, based on their adopted budgets. If funds are cut surreptitiously, this will create a huge budget nightmare. If Stafford Republicans wanted to address specific budget items, they should have done it within the constraints of the normal budget process. Dude, say it isn’t so?!
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, Stafford Republicans, in approving the FY’11 budget, also voted to withhold the reappropriation of educational federal stimulus funds – pending accounting reports verifying the exact amount of unspent funds in FY’10. The fact is that Stafford Republicans were already provided this information by the school system. You see the information they were already provided doesn’t fit within their preconceived notions. They want to claim that this money was local money and not federal stimulus money, so that they can further cut the school budget by arguing that if they didn’t spend this money last year than they don’t need it this year.
As I previously mentioned, the school system froze expending federal stimulus funds in FY’10, during the FY’11 budget formulation process, to protect against a looming budget cliff that they identified due to significant declines in state and local revenues. The local decline in revenues were not only because of the struggling economy, but was actually exacerbated by Stafford Republicans fiscal irresponsibility.
By withholding these federal stimulus dollars from the school system, Stafford Republicans are potentially jeopardizing continuing a recent step increase given to teachers and other school employees into the next school year. Why you ask? The federal stimulus dollars were included as part of the instructional budget for next year. This instructional budget includes the large majority of employee salaries. If Stafford Republicans were not to reappropriate the $11 million or so of federal stimulus, not only would this raise be in jeopardy, but also significant teacher layoffs would be necessary.
It’s past time that Stafford Republicans stop playing political games with our teachers and children as their pawns! Enough is enough already.