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Surplus may be a boost for schools

In a split 2-1 vote, Halifax County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee members voted Wednesday afternoon to recommend the full board give the school system an extra $150,000 out of the $593,000 recently restored to the proposed budget.

If supervisors act on the finance committee’s recommendation, the county will contribute $13,417,529 in the upcoming budget year that goes into effect July 1.

Finance Chairman Doug Bowman and ED-1 Supervisor J. T. Davis voted in favor of giving additional funding to the schools. However, ED-3 Supervisor W. I. Fitzgerald opposed the recommendation saying, “We’ve already approved the funding for the school, and I’m not prepared to reopen it.”

Supervisors are expected to consider the budget at the May 6 meeting. That’s why finance committee members met Wednesday to decide how to divvy up the extra $593,000 they did not expect to have in the budget.

The half million dollar plus surplus resulted from the county having $343,000 more than expected from reductions in regional jail costs, $70,000 from a reduction in health insurance costs and $180,000 from an increase in anticipated sales tax revenue.

The finance committee also is recommending a huge chunk — $150,000 — be set aside for the relocation of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office which will have to be moved before the old jail can be demolished as part of the county courthouse renovation project.

In addition, the finance committee suggested using $50,000 to make a down payment on a front end loader for the county public works department, added $50,000 to the county Industrial Development Authority budget that was originally cut $100,000 and recommended setting aside another $50,000 for architectural and engineering studies to run water and sewer lines to the fairground property preparing for future development.

Other committee suggestions on how to spend the $593,000 included the following:

$26,000 to the county’s volunteer fire departments to buy a second set of personal protective equipment;

 $5,000 for the YMCA;

 $1,950 for Roanoke River Rails to Trails;

 $3,200 for Chamber of Commerce dues;

 $3,930 for Roanoke River Basin Association dues;

 $7,000 for the South Boston/Halifax County Museum; and

 $10,000 for the Longwood Small Business Development Center;

Prior to discovering the extra half million plus, supervisors had earlier recommended none of these agencies receive funding.

When voting against the motion, Fitzgerald made it clear he supported all the recommendations except the $150,000 in additional school funding.

He maintained the board already had acted on the school budget and he was not prepared to revisit that discussion.

Davis countered teachers’ raises could be in jeopardy if the county does not provide more money to the school division.

However, school board members had voted to give 2 percent raises to all school employees with existing budgeted funds weeks before any talk of additional money surfaced.

Davis maintained providing additional funding for school employees’ raises was listed as a priority, and supervisors should remember these employees haven’t received raises in five years when deciding how to spend the extra money.

Bowman agreed with Davis saying the extra $150,000 would ensure the school could give the 2 percent raises to all employees.

The finance chairman also suggested the full board consider cutting business license fees in half from what is being proposed meaning the county would collect $84,000 less in revenue in the proposed budget.

“We don’t want to be insensitive to smaller employers,” he added.

The full board is expected to hear all of the recommendations from the finance committee before taking action on the proposed budget at its May 6 meeting.