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December 20, 2009
Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Sunday, December 20, 2009

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Officials with local agencies and institutions that get state funds are trying to determine what Gov. Tim Kaine's proposed budget cuts, announced Friday, will mean to them.

Some of them knew Friday. For instance, the New College Institute (NCI) fared better with the governor's budget than Executive Director Barry Dorsey expected.

NCI originally had a base budget in state funds of $1,623,809 for fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012, but earlier this year a reduction of $151,571 in state funds was imposed on the institute. That left NCI with $1,472,238 in state funds for each of the two fiscal years, according to Dorsey.

State budget documents released Friday show that Kaine is recommending that NCI get $1,464,107 in state funds in 2011 and also in 2012. As a result, the net loss in state funds to NCI for each of those two years would be $8,131, Dorsey said.

However, any loss of state funds results in a corresponding loss of funds from The Harvest Foundation to NCI. That means for 2011 and also for 2012, NCI will lose a total of $16,262, according to Dorsey and calculations.

Dorsey said he thinks NCI can make up those cuts without significantly impacting programs, and he thinks two new degree programs planned for launch in 2011 - accounting and special education - can go forward as planned.

He said he does not yet know how NCI will make up the budget cuts.

"I think Gov. Kaine has protected NCI much better than we expected," said Dorsey. "I thought the reduction (in state funds) would be much higher."

Now, "the trick will be to hold this recommendation through the entire General Assembly session" that starts in January, he said. "We'll have to work very hard" to do that.

Virginia Museum of Natural History Interim Executive Director Gloria Niblett said the museum was spared in the budget cuts Kaine announced Friday.

In October, the museum had been ordered to trim its spending by 10 percent, or about $261,000.

"Ten percent was already a big cut from our budget," Niblett said. "I don't know why we were spared (more cuts Friday). I'm just glad we were."

She said the museum dealt with the 10 percent cut already ordered mainly through energy-saving measures and reducing discretionary spending.

Henry County Administrator Benny Summerlin said many budget cuts for specific offices and agencies are not yet known.

However, "the governor's budget, as introduced, is devastating for Henry County," and it "will impact our ability to deliver core services," Summerlin said

There is less state aid for public schools statewide in the budget, he said, and the constitutional officers' cuts are "huge," especially in the area of law enforcement.

Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry is "very concerned. We've had discussions about our ability to deliver services," Summerlin said.

Some cuts would be offset by stimulus and other funds, he said, but stimulus funds are short-lived and eventually the locality will have to come up with funding.

The governor announced proposed cuts of $357 million in state funds to public schools. However, superintendents of the local school systems said they do not expect to find out from the Virginia Department of Education (DOE) how much their systems will be cut until later this week.

"It's early to determine" how the state cuts will affect Martinsville schools, said city Superintendent Scott Kizner. He said it probably will take about a week for the DOE to let school systems know how much they will be cut.

"Obviously, we know we're going to have to make reductions. We've heard that loud and clear," Henry County Superintendent Anthony Jackson said of he and other county school officials.

Jackson said he just wants the state to "give me a picture of how difficult it's going to be so we can roll up our sleeves and get to work" figuring out how to absorb the cuts.

He said he will take public opinion into account when he eventually makes recommendations to the Henry County School Board.

Like the superintendents, Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) officials on Friday were waiting to hear from the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) how much the college's funds will be reduced. They expect that will occur sometime this week.

Once they find out how much PHCC will be cut, "we need to sit down and figure out what it means" in terms of how the college will be affected, said Vice President for Institutional Advancement Natalie Harder.

Kaine proposed a 26 percent reduction in general funds to public colleges and universities beginning in July. State budget documents show that he is recommending a $14.5 billion cut in fiscal 2011 and a $49.4 billion cut in fiscal 2012 for the entire community college system.

Those are "some significant cuts," said PHCC Public Relations Director Kris Landrum. As a result, "every college in the VCCS ... is going to be struggling to operate efficiently and effectively."

Landrum said college administrators have discussed some ideas for cuts but she was not at liberty to discuss them now.

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