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School System Bracing For $7.2 Budget Shortfall

Read the governor’s complete list of cuts.

“It’s an ugly time…a catastrophic situation,” said Bill Covington, Halifax County Public Schools chief financial officer, regarding the newest projected decrease in funding from the state.

Halifax County Public Schools is anticipating a reduction of approximately $7.2 million in state funding in light of Governor Bob McDonnell’s announcement Wednesday of $731.2 million in general fund reductions in aid to local school divisions for K-12 education. The governor is looking to trim a total of $2.1 billion from the state budget.

“What we’re seeing is an historical shift of fiscal responsibility from the state to the localities for the funding of public schools,” said Halifax County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Larry Clark.

“In my more than 40 years in education I have never seen such a situation where state support for K-12 education continues to be reduced,” Clark added.

The local school system was looking at a $3.4 million reduction in state funding in the budget proposed by former Governor Tim Kaine. When Governor McDonnell announced he would not support a freeze on the Local Composite Index rate, the school system’s anticipated budget shortfall rose to $5 million. And with the governor’s announcement Wednesday, the projected deficit for Halifax County Public Schools skyrockets to $7.2 million.

“This budget shortfall will have a serious impact on the education system in Halifax County from what it is today,” Covington said. “There will be a big difference in what citizens are used to and have been for decades.”

Deputy Superintendent Clark agreed with Covington’s look at the future of education in Halifax County. “The kind of school system we have in 2010-2011 will not look like what the school system has had in the past,” Clark said. “This reduction in funding cannot help but have a pronounced effect on the services we provide, the programs we provide and the personnel we employ.”

Clark said the school system is limited in sources for funding. “The public needs to realize this school division, like all of the other 131 school divisions in the state, has nowhere to turn but to the local board of supervisors,” he said. “We have no other source of support.”

Covington said if the entire $7.2 million projected budget shortfall was to be absorbed by personnel, it would mean a loss of 144 jobs. But the entire shortfall will not be reflected in personnel, as Clark said. There almost definitely will be reductions in services and programs throughout the school system. “All three aspects will be impacted by the reduction in revenue we historically have received from the state,” Clark said

Governor McDonnell’s $731.2 million in reductions of aid to local school divisions include the following:

• Delay Base Year Expenditure Update ($225.8 million)

• Exclude Support for Supplemental Salaries ($130.1 million)

• Eliminate Lottery support for certain education programs ($91.9 million)

• Adjust Prevailing Cost Methodology ($70.7 million)

• Adjust At-Risk Add-On ($41.5 million)

• Adjust Federal Deduct ($36.2 million)

• Exclude Nonpersonal Facility Support ($31.8 million)

• Exclude Lease and Rental Support ($31.6 million)

• Exclude Support for Travel ($29.1 million)

• Extend School Bus Replacement Cycle ($19.5 million)

• Transfer Literary Fund balances ($13 million)

• Decrease general fund support for Direct Aid Programs ($10 million)

“Much of the progress in public education over the past several decades is going to be undone because of the shortfall in revenue,” Clark added.