NORTHAMPTON: Superintendent supports $1M more in local funds

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BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post —

Northampton County supervisors should supply at least $1 million more toward the cost of public education in the next fiscal year to comply with a state funding formula, according to the school superintendent.

The formula “is probably the most significant … factor that determines how much funding Northampton is going to receive from the state,” Superintendent Lisa Martin told supervisors on Wednesday, March 13.

The suggested funding increase is due to the increase in Northampton’s local composite index, a number calculated by the Virginia Department of Education to indicate how much a locality is expected to pay for its public education.

Northampton’s composite index previously was about 0.48, meaning the county was expected to cover 48% of the educational costs it shares with the state.

The composite index, which is recalculated every two years, has increased to about 0.525, and now Northampton will be expected to provide almost 10% more funding for its public schools.

Last year, the county’s contribution to the Northampton schools’ operating budget was about $10.5 million, and this year’s expected contribution will be at least $11.5 million.

Martin said that the formula used to calculate the local composite index is complex, but it is based on three main indicators: 50% on real property values, 40% on adjusted gross income, and 10% on taxable retail sales.

The heavy reliance on property values can be a detriment to localities like Northampton County, where overall real estate values are driven higher due to tourism, but wages for average families are not necessarily higher.

Martin said Northampton schools also are negatively impacted by decreases in average daily membership – the average number of students enrolled and attending school on a daily basis.

The impacts on the composite index of property values, income, and retail sales are weighted according to a locality’s population and its schools’ average daily membership.

The number of Northampton students steadily declined over a decade and its average daily membership is now holding at about 1,300.

From 2019 to 2021, Northampton schools’ average daily membership decreased even though the county’s population increased.

“Unfortunately, either they’re moving in and they did not have children that were in a school system or … they weren’t attending a public school,” Martin said.

Concerning taxable retail sales in terms of school and county populations, “Northampton was the number one, in terms of increases, in the state,” she added.

The amount of taxable retail sales, per the number of students, increased almost 65% compared to the state average increase of about 14%.

As of March 13, the Northampton schools’ budget had a deficit of nearly $2.5 million.

The school division is expected to make its final budget presentation to Northampton supervisors on Tuesday, April 9.

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