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School board eyes budget cuts at Thursday meeting

With the possibility of only receiving level funding from the Halifax County Board of Supervisors and the amount of state funding still up in the air, the Halifax County School Board is looking at having to cut at least $2 million from their proposed 2014-15 budget draft. 

The board will revisit their budget at a special meeting to be held Thursday at 6 p.m. in the school board office conference room.

During last month’s budget session, the board changed the total amount of local county funding requested from the supervisors to $16,634,259.

However, the board of supervisors has told school officials it plans to budget level funding from the current year of $13,377,529 for next year’s budget.

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon said she fears more cuts will have to be made in the school budget without more local funding.

The superintendent provided the board with a detailed list of line items that face possible cuts including the most costly, retired employee’s LORP/ERIP insurance at a savings of $316,680. 

Other proposed cuts include not replacing the assistant principal position at the high school currently held by Pedro Zamora who plans to retire, eliminating 1.5 GED positions, eliminating several paraprofessional jobs and eliminating secondary positions, to name a few. 

The school system has over 100 paraprofessionals in the budget, but the Department of Education’s Standards of Quality only requires 20. 

The school system also exceeds the number of administrators needed, Herndon said.

Secondary positions proposed for elimination would be based on elective classes in which students show the least amount of interest.

 Board members took no action on the proposed budget following the last work session opting to wait until they have more information on how much money they’ll receive from the state.  

Following budget discussions Thursday evening, Chairman Kim Farson is expected to lead a discussion on calendar make-up days. 

As of now, Halifax County Public Schools have missed a total of 15 days with none of these days having to be made-up due to banked days already in the school calendar. 

The number of instructional hours this year will exceed the minimum standard set by the Virginia Department of Education allowing the school system to bank 10 extra days. 

These 10 days have been used to cover the 15 days already missed due to inclement weather.

However, at the last school board meeting board members agreed they should be proactive and decide which options to use for make-up days should more be needed in the future.

If the school board is forced to look for additional make-up days, the board has three options from which to choose, according to Elementary Education/Professional Development Director Linda Owen. 

The options include adding 15 minutes to the beginning of the school day for 22 days, going to school on Saturdays or taking days from spring break. 

Board members agreed last month they would wait to see if parents would provide feedback on how they would like them to handle make-up days should that become necessary.

The superintendent also is slated to provide an update on the STEM renovations, one of the steps in the numerous facility renovations and staff moves scheduled to take place in order to complete the courthouse renovations.

Last Thursday, an open house was held for the county administrative offices that are now located in the basement of the Mary Bethune Office Complex in Halifax. 

The offices, once located on South Main Street, were moved to make way for the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office to move from the courthouse into the former county administrative office building.

The STEM renovations will begin next in order to re-locate the alternative education program by August.  

Prior to adjourning, the board plans to go into a closed meeting to discuss personnel.