Home Waynesboro School Board faces budget shortfall with renovations on the table

Waynesboro School Board faces budget shortfall with renovations on the table

Rebecca Barnabi

Waynesboro School Board approved Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Cassell submitting a letter of intent for $7.4 million to Nielsen Builders Inc. to renovate Wenonah Elementary School and Wayne Hills Center.

The Harrisonburg construction company submitted the lowest bid for the project in the amount of $8.6 million on November 29. The school board has 60 days to approve the bid, but could not approve the current bid at Tuesday’s regular meeting because the bid does not come within the school system’s budget for the project.

Cassell said that 18 months ago the project was budgeted for $5.4 million, and now it is $6.7 million, perhaps as much as $7 million because of inflation and supply chain challenges.

Nielsen created a list of more than $1 million of items in the project that could be delayed to meet budget, according to Cassell, yet the school system would still be $200,000 short. Cassell said he hopes state funding will make up the difference. Waynesboro Schools received $1.7 million for construction projects in the 2022-2023 budget from the state.

“When we complete the work on these two buildings, that has all of our elementary schools in really good shape,” Cassell said of the next step in renovations.

Cassell told the school board Tuesday night that he will have a projected 2023-2024 revenue budget for January’s meeting, at which a public hearing will also be held on the next year’s budget.

“I am optimistic about the budget year,” Cassell said. “I think we’re in a place where our funding should increase and will allow us to meet some of our priorities of teacher compensation, retention and recruitment and to address our facilities construction.”

He cautioned the school board, however, that a potential “funding cliff” may happen if the federal government’s money for learning loss and student social needs runs out in September 2024.

Del. John Avoli has proposed legislation, according to Cassell, to lift the cap on the amount of state funding for support staff in schools.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.