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Lynchburg City Council to revisit decades-old financial agreement with school board


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Lynchburg City Council plans to revisit a 30-year-old financial agreement between the governing body and the city’s school board. 

During a work session this past week, the body came to a consensus to notify the school board of council’s desire to revisit the agreement and will inform the school board of an upcoming vote on the agreement scheduled for council’s Feb. 14 regular meeting.

The city will notify the school board of the decision through a letter from City Attorney Matthew Freedman, council decided Tuesday.

The agreement, originally signed Dec. 20, 1993 by then-Mayor Julian Adams and then-School Board Chair Julius Sigler Jr., lays out the guidelines on how the two bodies navigate fund balances in the city’s annual budget.

The agreement states that any fund balance would be maintained by the school division, and that the school board would advise council yearly as to the amount of money left over and potentially what projects those funds would be allocated toward.

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Freedman said on Tuesday, to his knowledge, the agreement came about because, “the city had an issue with the school board in trying to discourage frivolous or unnecessary spending.”

While this agreement has been in place since 1993, Freedman said the current council is not bound to any agreement made by previous councils, nor are future councils bound to any decisions made by this one.

On Tuesday, Vice Mayor Chris Faraldi said, “I think city council would be in their right to say we want to revisit where these dollars are best served,” while Ward III Councilor Jeff Helgeson added there are “lots of reasons” why council is in the right to withdraw the agreement.

The discussion came immediately after several councilors — including Helgeson, Faraldi and newly-elected At-large Councilors Larry Taylor and Martin Misjuns — were hesitant to appropriate the remainder of the school division’s fiscal year 2022 unexpended operating fund, which was about $1.1 million, into the division’s capital fund budget.

Most of the skepticism came around approving almost $750,000 in building envelope repairs for R.S. Payne Elementary School. Those in opposition cited the age of the building, in conjunction with the school division’s recently completed facilities assessment report, as reason to hold off on approving the money.

Ward I Councilor MaryJane Dolan argued on behalf of continuing the agreement, saying she didn’t think the city should “penalize the school board or the school system for being frugal with their money.”

Ward II Councilor Sterling Wilder, who supported continuing the agreement alongside Dolan, implored the governing body to let the school board handle what they’ve been appointed to do.

“We appoint a school board to make certain decisions,” Wilder said.

“So we need to be able to trust the school board that we have appointed to make the proper decisions to use those one-time expenses to make sure our schools are running more efficiently, and our buildings are safe for our children.”

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