Lynchburg City Councilor opposes increase in school budget

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LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) - The Lynchburg City School Board met Tuesday night to go over the Superintendent's budget request for fiscal year 2017.

The board says it's still reviewing the proposal, but right now it stands at well over a million dollars more than last year.

One city councilor isn't happy about it.

Jeff Helgeson says E-C Glass High School used to be one of the highest ranking schools in the state, but now it ranks 15 out of 16 high schools in region 2000. That encompasses Lynchburg and the surrounding counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, and Campbell.

He says schools in Lynchburg are on the decline, and he can't understand why prices are going up.

"It's mind-boggling that they would be asking for more money in spite of the fact that we just had a joint meeting where they showed how poorly they were, I mean they were paltry results," said Helgeson.

But schools are asking for more.

Quite a bit more.

This year, the schools are projecting a $1.068 million funding gap.

Schools say that will fund new staff, raises for employees, and transportation support for students among other things, but Helgeson says he doesn't buy it.

"That's irrelevant, they have excuses all the time. So just to say they've had a system, a culture of excuses, ever since I've been on Council since 2004. Every year there's another excuse," said Helgeson.

Helgeson says the city has been not only meeting state standards for school funding, it's been exceeding them every year.

In 2015, council was required by the state to fund slightly more than $18 million of the school system budget.

The city paid more than $39 million, but Helgeson says he's not impressed with the results.

"You almost have to work hard to perform that poorly. You could have had the same result with half of the money. It wouldn't have put our citizens where we're number 6 in size of fiscal stress now in the whole Commonwealth of Virginia," said Helgeson.

The last 3 years, the city has met the school's funding requests.

Now, as the school board moves closer to approval, he hopes the council will put up a fight.

"I do hope that Council will consider our taxpayers this year," said Helgeson.