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School Officials Hold Breath Over Funding

School officials across the state are facing interesting school budget sessions in light of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s proposal to decrease state support for public schools by $357 million by 2012. The state reduced funding for Halifax County Public Schools by $3.3 million this budget year, but that reduction was offset in part by $2.3 million in federal stimulus funds.

“The reduction in state funding this year was devastating to our school budget,” said Halifax County Deputy Superintendent Larry Clark. “But the federal stimulus funding helped. If we’re going to see another reduction in 2010-11, we will recover some with the $2.3 million in the other half of the stimulus funds.”

Clark said for the current budget year school officials were able to make up for less state money through attrition of a number of positions. “We were able to recover and not put anyone out of work,” he said. “But for 2010-11, it’s doubtful if we can recover any additional reductions in state funding through attrition.”

Clark said approximately 85 percent of the budget of Halifax County Public Schools is in the form of personnel. “There are some things in the budget that cannot be changed or removed, such as school buses, special federally mandated programs, or funds to heat school buildings,” he explained.

For budget year 2011-12 there will be no federal stimulus funds to assist with any reduction in state funding. “If we were to see a reduction in state funding of $3.3 million like we had this year, we’re talking about a tremendous shortfall,” the deputy superintendent said. “It would be extremely difficult for the locality to make up.”
Clark said the upcoming 2010-11 budget is going to be difficult. “But 2011-12 could be disastrous,” he explained.

“If there is no second round of stimulus money for public education, public schools around the country could be facing shortfalls,” Clark said.

“If the state reduces funding, the locality will either have to step up and help fund the difference, or we will have to eliminate positions,” Clark said. “It’s up to the board of supervisors.”

Kaine’s proposed budget goes to the new House of Delegates and State Senate in January for approval and then to Governor Bob McDonnell.