HVAC Failure and Deferred Maintenance Dangers

At joint meeting, School Board members again present the division’s budget needs to Supervisors.

by Adele Uphaus
MANAGING EDITOR AND CORRESPONDENT

Last week, the bladder in the hot water expansion tank at Rodney Thompson Middle School in Stafford failed due to age.

The failure caused pressure in the system to spike out of control and as a result, a pipe in the cafeteria burst and poured boiling, 165-degree water into the room and surrounding hallway.

Thankfully, the emergency occurred when students were not in school, but this is the kind of incident that should terrify parents, superintendent Thomas Taylor said during Tuesday afternoon’s joint meeting of the Stafford School Board and Board of Supervisors.

Screenshot from presentation given by school division staff at Tuesday's joint meeting of the Stafford County School Board and Board of Supervisors.
Screenshot from presentation given by school division staff at Tuesday’s joint meeting of the Stafford County School Board and Board of Supervisors.

Rodney Thompson’s mechanical needs have been on the school division’s capital improvement plan since 2008, with work scheduled to begin in 2013, according to a presentation given at the meeting.

But as has been the case with so many of the division’s capital needs, it was deferred.

Staff said the school division has received less than half of the funds needed to properly maintain its facilities.

Taylor also provided supervisors with an overview of the school budget situation. The division will receive an additional $3 million in state funds under the General Assembly’s approved state budget, Taylor said.

However, Gov. Glenn Youngkin has not yet signed off on it and there could be several weeks of politically motivated negotiation which could affect school funding, Taylor said.

The division has asked for $15 million in new local funding from the Board of Supervisors. Taylor said the division has already cut $4.2 million from the budget before even presenting it and that compensation is the only place left to cut should it not receive the full funding.

The School Board’s approved budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, would initiate the first of three phases of improvements to the salary scale for support staff.

These employees include paraeducators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, maintenance workers, clerical workers and bookkeepers, and other employees who are crucial to the day-to-day operation of the school division.

Support staff have been advocating for themselves, wearing the color green, at School Board and Board of Supervisor meetings since early this year.

On Tuesday, Hartwood district supervisor Darrell English raised the possibility of not giving raises to school division staff who make more than $100,000 in order to free up funds for service staff compensation.

This suggestion met with pushback from School Board members and division staff, but the meeting as a whole was vastly less contentious than joint meetings between the two boards have been this year.

Managing Editor and Correspondent