The Roanoke School Board voted 6-0 Tuesday night to approve the 2019-20 line-item budget.

More state money is expected in the $190 million Roanoke City Schools budget than projected, largely because average daily membership count was higher than expected this school year.

Average daily membership is the main figure used to determine state funding for schools. It’s calculated by dividing the total aggregate daily membership — or total students enrolled — by the number of days school was in session from the first day of the school year through March 31.

Some board members had expressed concern in March about the planned use of the division’s fund balance. Initially, about $6.8 million in reserve funding would have been used, dropping the fund balance to less than $10 million. Board policy only allows the school system to fall below that threshold in rare circumstances.

The approved line-item budget would use only $4.1 million of the fund balance. The switch to a new transportation company is expected to save about $1 million, according to Chief Financial Officer Kathleen Jackson. The total would leave the division with about $13 million in its general fund reserves.

This school year’s budget called for tapping $5.9 million from reserves, though Jackson said the division likely would only need to use about $3 million.

Board Vice Chairman Mark Cathey was absent and did not vote.

Parents weigh in on principal vacancy

Four parents of Roanoke students addressed the school board on the search for a new principal at Patrick Henry High.

They said they’d attended the forum Monday night when a candidate for the job, Jay Lancaster, principal of George Washington High School in Danville, introduced himself and answered questions.

Each speaker said the board should keep searching.

Amy McGinnis suggested casting a wider net to find the best candidate. McGinnis cited the loss of “excellent teachers and administrators” to other school divisions in recent years.

Roanoke and Patrick Henry High sell themselves, McGinnis said, and could appeal to someone looking to build on success.

“I believe there is a superstar administrator out there who could be wooed to the Star City,” McGinnis said. “Can we poach ourselves a principal?”

Sarah Hamm said the division should consider naming an interim principal.

Mary Jo Fannin said she’s still interested in the search, though her daughter has graduated. Fannin, who asked questions during the candidate forum Monday, said she believes the best hire could be found in Roanoke.

The new Patrick Henry High principal will replace Kathy Duncan, who is returning to her previous roles July 1 as principal of the Roanoke Technical Education Center and the division’s career and technical education director.

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