A new committee hopes to improve communications between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board in Stafford County.

The School Joint Working Committee was created to work through policy and budget issues before taking matters to full committees or boards.

Three county supervisors and three School Board members make up the group, which held its first meeting Wednesday.

“I think it’s always good to have conversations with our School Board members because schools are the largest expense we have in the county,” said Supervisor Meg Bohmke, who serves as chairwoman of the new committee.

According to Supervisor Crystal Vanuch, the idea for the committee came during the Board of Supervisors’ most recent budget-planning cycle earlier this year. Supervisors then passed a resolution in the spring to launch the committee.

Vanuch feels the formation of the group will provide opportunities for representatives from both Stafford boards to be more transparent on issues that directly impact county taxpayers.

One of the goals set by Vanuch and Bohmke is the establishment of a long-range, five-year financial plan for county schools.

“We have a county five-year plan at the Board of Supervisors level, so we know what the tax rate has to be and what we can accomplish with our five-year financial plan,” said Vanuch. “But every year, [the schools] come to us and say they need X, Y or Z that wasn’t calculated in the financial plan, which means we have to cut something that we’ve planned on moving forward with in order to accommodate their budget request.”

School Superintendent Scott Kizner said the new committee will be successful only if there is commitment by each committee member to work toward solutions county-wide, and not focus entirely on issues faced by schools.

“I think this is a positive step,” said Kizner. “I also think the discussions [in the committee] have to expand beyond just School Board business to other issues in the county as a whole, such as economic development, which drives the housing market and impacts the overall student population.”

In addition to Vanuch and Bohmke, other members of the joint committee include Supervisor Cindy Shelton and School Board members Holly Hazard, Sarah Chase and Pamela Yeung.

Yeung said the community cannot always be fully engaged in School Board and county supervisor business, but feels representatives from the two groups coming together in the joint committee could help improve the county.

“If [the community] understands where the money’s coming from, how much money needs to be spent, how many steps the Board of Supervisors need to take … I think that educating the community and coming up with ideas among all of us together, we could be a stronger community instead of separating us in pieces,” said Yeung.

The group will meet monthly and meetings are open to the public. Bohmke said she anticipates the next meeting will be held in early September.

James Scott Baron:

540/374-5438

jbaron@freelancestar.com

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