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Shelved before, books a priority for Halifax schools

Halifax County School Board admittedly has a tough year ahead.

County schools are just beginning to feel the brunt of a $1 million budget shortfall as they enter another round of budget discussions  — a shortfall that could grow quickly if employee raises, hiring new teachers, buying new textbooks or updating the school bus fleet are added to  the equation.

According to Chief Financial Officer Bill Covington, the time has now come to renew textbooks and purchase new series of texts in English and science.

“The amount really depends on the series adopted and the amount per book, and you have to get a head count. It’s really just unknown at this time, but a big adoption like this, where every student takes the subject, can run you about $500,000 to $1 million,” Covington said in an interview last week.

Halifax County Public Schools has a textbook fund. However, in past years with the continuous budget shortfalls, textbook funds haven’t been replenished as they should have been, Covington explained.

In the years the school doesn’t purchase textbooks, they used to add money to keep the balance up so the money would be in there when it was needed.

“Essentially it hasn’t been replenished as it should. It’s one of those options during the budget shortfalls, short of firing people, when you have to cut from somewhere else,” he added.

Covington said he doesn’t believe students will have to share or use online textbooks again though.

“That was something that was tried in order to conserve money, but when you try to do that, it only hurts the students,” Covington said.

“We have no choice but to move forward,” he added.

But where the money will come from to move forward remains the $64,000 question, school officials say.

School employee raises: a thing of the past?

As school officials ponder upcoming budget woes, Halifax County Public School system employees continue to feel the results of budget shortfalls in their pockets.

It’s been three years since county school employees have had raises, school officials said Friday.

Although, as part of a Federal Jobs Stimulus Funds package last school year, a one-time bonus in the amount of $1,300 was given to 1,117 full-time employees, and $650 was given to 18 part-time employees.

The superintendent, deputy superintendent, assistant superintendent for instruction and the chief financial officer were excluded from the bonus payment last school year.

According to Covington if employees were given a 1 percent salary increase in the upcoming fiscal year, it would cost $400,000.

“Our two major funding sources come from state and local, and we just don’t have it,” said Covington.

Covington said it has been an extra tough time all the while other expenses, such as costs of living, continue to rise.

The morale is not very “cheery,” he said.

“We would love to give a raise,” Covington added, but he doesn’t believe this is the year it is going to happen.