Wednesday, Jul 30th

Last updateWed, 30 Jul 2014 8am

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STATE BUDGET: Schools Wait For Numbers

School officials are eagerly awaiting the final figures on state funding for the Halifax County School System, according to Bill Covington, Halifax County Public Schools chief financial officer.

“The big rush statewide is to get the numbers from Richmond,” Covington said Tuesday. “We need to see line-by-line items to see what it will do to us.”

The General Assembly passed the $82 billion biennial state budget Sunday, one day after the scheduled adjournment date. The House of Delegates and State Senate had to deal with a historic state budget shortfall of $4.2 billion during this session of the General Assembly.

“The biggest issues that had to be resolved were how much money was going to be put into K-12 education and Medicare,” said Senator Frank Ruff.

The Virginia Department of Education takes the total state funding allocated for K-12 education and breaks it down into what each school division will receive from the state, Covington said.

“The DOE sends down information to all localities,” he said. “We don’t know when we’ll know what we can expect, but we should have it by the end of the week.”

Covington said he is especially interested in seeing the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) figures. “The state is using a lot of VRS funding to offset the lack of state funds,” Covington explained. “VRS figures will be an important part of this thing, and it will play a major role in our budget.”

Senator Ruff said the final state budget is closer to the one proposed by the senate than the house version.

“The education issue started with a $500 million difference between the house budget and the senate budget,” Ruff said. “In the end, it was settled closer to the Senate’s position. The house agreed to allot an additional $400 million into K-12, and we agreed to allocate $100 million less than the senate had earlier agreed upon.”

Covington said that should be a positive factor for public education in Virginia. “The final state budget is closer to the senate version, and that helps the state in terms of education,” he said.

“We’re pleased we will be closer to the better-case scenario, given the house version of the state budget compared to the senate version,” Covington said.

“We want to know how it will affect textbooks, the four-year-old program and other things,” he added. “We want to know how it will affect the whole picture.”

Citizens have the opportunity tonight to provide input to the Halifax County School Board during its budget deliberations. A public comment session will be held in the public meeting room of the Mary Bethune Office Complex beginning at 7 o’clock.