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2014-2-28

Full-time governor’s schools ask for almost $3 million

By Liz Butterfield, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Full-time governor’s schools in Virginia are requesting an additional $2.9 million from the state this year to correct a funding disparity in the budget formula between part-time and full-time governor’s schools.

Parent-Teacher-Student Association members of the Appomattox Regional Governor's school and the Maggie Walker Governor's School are leading an advocacy effort proposing the amendments.

The funding formula currently in place gives full-time governor’s schools in Virginia only 15 percent more funding than part-time schools, which is not enough to encourage growth or continued much-needed programs, according to Marianne Macon, advocacy chair of the Maggie Walker PTSA.  "In effect, the current formula discourages full-day programs," Macon said. "The state has been providing planning grants for new governor's schools -- new full-day schools -- and the planning is in the works, but the actual realization of the schools -- and the continued possibility of the schools being financially viable for their region -- is really, in my opinion, dependent on the correction of the formula."

House budget item 136 1H and Senate budget item 136 2S are patroned by Delegate Tag Greason, R-Lansdowne, and Sen. Richard Saslaw, D-Springfield, respectively. The items were spearheaded by concerned parents of the schools.  “When this was brought to my attention I thought, wow, these are supposed to be the best and brightest of our schools, but yet we’re underfunding them,” Greason said. “I think literally the mechanics of the funding formula have shortchanged the schools so we put in a budget amendment to try and fix that.”

The House version of the budget item requests a study of the funding formula for the schools for a long term solution, Greason said.  The budget amendments aim to correct the funding disparity between full-time governor’s schools and part-time governor’s schools in the state, which has been in place for more than a decade, Macon said.  If the amendment is added to the budget, $2.9 million would be allotted to the schools for school year 2014-2015 between the three schools.

The budget problems at the schools have been building since 2009, and Maggie Walker still is down about 15 percent in overall revenue funding from state and local funding since 2009, Macon said.  "There is such great demand for these schools I think there would be progress in establishing more if the funding was stabilized and equalized," said PTSA advocacy committee member Laura O'Brien.

The additional money would be put towards updating technology, textbooks and needed security changes around the schools, Macon said.  The Maggie Walker School has had to cut its part-time security staff and does not have a full-time school resource officer, Macon said.  "We've had to cut back in that area," Macon said.  The school also has had to pay for recent updates in its security cameras.

Bringing additional funding from the state will allow programs at the Appomattox governor’s school to strengthen, said Sherrill Hankins, PTSA advocacy chair at the Appomattox Regional Governor's School. The funding may go to "maintaining key teachers who will come or are attracted to come teach in these focus areas," she said.

Teacher salaries must be approved by the regional school boards, which vote on their own budgets annually.

The amendments were not included in the governor’s original proposed budget

CoCoRaHS Program Conducting a “March Madness” Recruiting Effort

The National Weather Service in Wakefield, VA is currently looking for volunteers to join the CoCoRaHS program during a “March Madness” recruiting effort.      

CoCoRaHS stands for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow network and was established in 1998 in the aftermath of the Fort Collins, CO flash flood that occurred in July 1997.  This program consists of a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers who take daily weather measurements in their backyards and record the information on the CoCoRaHS website (www.cocorahs.org).  Observations are then immediately available in map and table form for the National Weather Service and the public to view. 

There are several counties throughout Eastern Virginia that have zero to less than five observers actively reporting.  During last year’s contest, we were able to pick up 17 total observers as well as provide information within 5 counties/incorporated cities that had zero observers previously. 

In order to expand this beneficial observing network, we are counting on YOU!  By becoming a CoCoRaHS observer, you will provide crucial precipitation information that fills data gaps among other observation networks.  Weather enthusiasts of all ages are welcome to join CoCoRaHS and are encouraged to read more information about the program at www.cocorahs.org before deciding to volunteer.  If you have any questions about CoCoRaHS, please contact Bridget De Rosa at (757) 899-4200.

On the Web:

NOAA:  http://www.noaa.gov

National Weather Service:  http://www.weather.gov

CoCoRaHS Program:  http://www.cocorahs.org

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IST Program at SVCC Leads To Careers

“I don’t think Southside Virginia Community College gets nearly enough credit.  The professors are knowledgeable and approachable.  The classes are challenging and I never felt like I was wasting my time or not learning enough in class,” is how one student in the Information Systems Technology program describes the local college.

Jean Lucas continues, “As a busy mom, one of the main reasons I chose SVCC was the availability of so many online and evening classes.  I don’t think most people realize the quality and variety of programs that are offered at SVCC.”

Lucas is a 2013 Summa Cum Laude graduate with the Associate of Applied Science degree in IST.  She is currently participating in an internship at Kinex Telecom in Farmville, Virginia, a local telecommunications company specializing in telephone and internet services serving southern Virginia.    Kinex also repairs computers for businesses and individuals and is a partner and supporter of the Information Systems Technology program at SVCCKinex also provides a representative to serve on the Advisory Committee at the college for Information Technology. 

Lucas is putting her classroom knowledge to work in a hands-on environment in the area of computer repair and troubleshooting.  She is Microsoft Office Specialist certified in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

“When I contacted Joan Tuck with SVCC and explained that I was looking for an intern, I never expected to have someone of Jean Lucas’ caliber apply.  Jean came to us, mild, friendly and with a beautiful smile. Jean is a highly talented and a dedicated professional who is helpful and intuitive.    Her technical experience is strong and her organizational skills are invaluable.  She has effectively demonstrated her learned professional and technical abilities from SVCC.  We are happy to have her working with our team and recognize the valuable service SVCC offers our communities,” said Lorraine G. Carter, General Manager, Kinex Telecom, Inc.

Another successful IST student is Oscar Ramirez (pictured) of Buffalo Junction, Virginia who is a 2011 graduate of Bluestone High School.  He completed his Associate in Applied Science degree at Southside Virginia Community College in December 2013 and has been hired full-time by Atos, an international Information Technology services company, in Boydton, Virginia as a data center entry-level technician.  Ramirez received his Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification in Security Fundamentals while taking classes at SVCC.

According to Joan Tuck, Professor, Information Technology for the Daniel Campus, “the Information Technology field changes rapidly and is an exciting career choice for many people, especially those who enjoy a hands-on, challenging, problem-solving environment.   The faculty in the Information Technology Department are dedicated and committed to the success of our students.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national median pay for computer support specialists is $46,260.  The national median pay for network support specialists is slightly higher at $59,090.  Computer support specialists provide installation, repairs, updates, help, and advice to people and organizations using computer software or equipment.  Network support specialists analyze, test, troubleshoot, and evaluate existing network systems, such as local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), and Internet systems. They also perform network maintenance to ensure networks operate correctly with minimal interruption. 

SVCC has a robust associate degree program in Information Systems Technology with a variety of classes that include application software, operating systems, web design, programming, PC hardware troubleshooting and repair, networking, and security.   A networking specialization within the associate degree program is also available.  Many of the courses prepare students for industry certifications that are valuable in information technology careers. 

For information, see the website at www.southside.edu

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Hermie Sadler’s FOSHO Bar and Grille proudly presents Comedy Legend “Killer Beaz”

Saturday, Feb 7  9:00 PM

Tickets are on sale now.

 

Section A $28.00 ♦ Section B $20.00

 

Law Would Let Dominion Hike Electric Bills

By Matt Leonard, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Dominion Virginia Power would be allowed to avoid state regulation for eight years while having the ability to raise consumers’ electric bills, if the General Assembly passes a bill before the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor.

The legislation would require Dominion to maintain its base rate for eight years beginning in 2013 – when the state last reviewed the company’s rates – until 2020. While the base rate would stay the same, the company would retain the authority to increase fuel surcharges and other “riders” that are added to customers’ utility bills.

The base rate typically makes up just over half of a customer’s bill, said Ken Schrad, director of information resources at the State Corporation Commission, which regulates public utilities.

The riders – also known as rate adjustment clauses, or RACs – still would require approval from the SCC. But when approving them, the agency does not take into account Dominion’s “costs, revenues, investments, or earnings.” That is information the SCC examines during biennial reviews.

Under current state law, the SCC performs a review of Dominion Power every two years to ensure that the company is not “overearning” by overcharging customers, Schrad said. But Senate Bill 1349, introduced by Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, would prohibit the SCC from conducting its reviews until after 2020.

Under the bill, the SCC would be “barred from adjusting the utility’s rates until the conclusion of the 2023 biennial review, with certain exceptions,” according to a summary of the measure by the Legislative Information Service, the General Assembly’s staff.

The bill stipulates that “no adjustment to a Phase II Utility’s rates shall be made” – meaning Dominion’s base rate would not change; however, it says nothing to limit riders.

Wagner approached Dominion for help with wording part of the bill, and the company provided “some draft language,” said Rob Richardson, a senior communications specialist for Dominion.

Asked who would benefit most from the bill, Richardson said customers would. He said federal and state regulation, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to reduce carbon emissions, could endanger “low electric rates and reliable service.”

However, consumer advocates say SB 1349 could benefit Dominion at the expense of consumers.

The Virginia attorney general’s office, which represents consumers in rate cases, said that the bill would eliminate SCC oversight, freeing Dominion to raise fees on consumers.

“We oppose bills like this that limit the attorney general’s ability to advocate on behalf of consumers for the lowest rates possible or that tie the hands of the State Corporation Commission in setting appropriate rates,” said Michael Kelly, director of communications for Attorney General Mark Herring.

Schrad said current Virginia state law binds Dominion’s rate changes to the biennial reviews. Changes can be made only after the review process.

This became customary after a 2007 law ended a 10-year period aimed at creating competition in the electric industry. The 10-year experiment failed, and Dominion maintained a monopoly over Virginia utilities, Schrad said.

The 2007 legislation brought back regulation of the electric industry.

Under settlements reached after the SCC’s first review of Dominion, the company had to refund $726 million, with the average customer receiving $153.

As a result of the SCC’s review in 2011, Dominion had to refund customers $78.3 million due to overearnings. The most recent review by the SCC resulted in a lower base rate.

Wagner served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1992 through 2000, when he was elected to the Senate.

Since 1997, Wagner has received $43,100 in donations from Dominion, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit group that compiles campaign finance data. Dominion gave Wagner $10,500 in 2013-14, VPAP records show.

Wagner did not respond to a request for comment. But he told The Virginian-Pilot that he proposed SB 1349 because the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will impose costly pollution standards on Virginia.

The bill has been referred to a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee that is examining the EPA plan. Wagner chairs the subcommittee.

 

There’s Still Time to Sign Up for Health Insurance coverage and Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center Can Help

If you’re uninsured, there’s still time to sign up for health insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace and avoid the penalty.

The Affordable Care Act required that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty. The penalty is applied to annual taxable income for each month without health insurance after February 15, 2015, the last day to enroll.

Based on household income and dependents, health insurance coverage may be available at no cost through Medicaid. For those who do not qualify for Medicaid, coverage may be available on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

That is where Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) can help!  The applications counselors at SVRMC can assist individuals and their families evaluate the available health plans and determine eligibility for Medicaid or other insurance options, as well as assist with the enrollment process

Enrollment counselors are available Monday – Friday 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM by appointment by calling 434-348-4406.  Beginning January 6th, SVRMC will hold Enrollment Fairs in the Registration Department every Tuesday from 2:00 PM – 6:30 PM throughout the open enrollment period (enrollment fairs will end on 2/10/15).  During this time enrollment counselors will be on hand to answer questions and assist with the enrollment process.  Those interested should bring proof of residency or a driver’s license, proof of income (pay stub or W2) for all family members applying, and the social security number of anyone who is applying.

For more information regarding qualifying for any type of health insurance coverage, contact Nicole Mitchell at 434-348-4406.

Missing Black Lab

Black lab  with white spot on chest missing since Dec 15.Last seen on Grasssy Pond Rd.He 's 1 year old.Very friendly.Toby is his name.Please call  634-4725 or 594-9305 if you have seen him. Thank you.

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