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Finance committee ponders staff reductions in schools

With no place else to turn for funding, Halifax County School administrators have set their sights on reducing potential staff in order to cut $640,000 from the proposed budget.

School Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon made the announcement during budget discussions Monday morning at the Mary Bethune office complex in Halifax when she informed those attending the school system is now facing a $439,779 deficit.

With 80 percent of the budget paying for salaries, finance committee member R. K. “Dick” Stoneman agreed saying, “positions are going to have to go.” 

Administrators also are looking at cutting classes and programs to balance the budget.

The projected budget has a $1,965,297 deficit, and administration and finance committee members said Monday morning they are pondering paring from the budget the following items:

• One resource officer - $45,000

• Security equipment - $100,000

• Meals Plus program change over to Infinite Campus - $7,500

• Professional Development Software - $16,000

• Librarian at high school but decrease library assistants - $20,000

• Restructure instructional coach positions with three SOQ tech. res. - $180,000

• SubFinder software/maintenance - $13,000

• Governor’s School - $65,000

• Autism specialist division wide - $50,000

• Tuition reimbursement - $77,945

• Equipment allocation reduced by 50 percent - from $110,000 to $55,000

• School-level budget reduction by 50 percent - $232,000

• Center-based homebound instruction - $25,000

• Potential staff position adjustments - $639,073

Originally board members were told Regional Governor’s School at Southern Virginia Community College in Keysville would cost $65,000. Herndon said Monday $65,000 would be the maximum cost if the school provided transportation. Potentially the school could go as low as $10,000 if no transportation is provided.

“We’ll discuss that further tonight,” said Herndon referring to Monday night’s school board meeting.

Of the $33.6 million state funding, $416,612 has been earmarked for providing 2 percent raises for Standards of Quality positions.

School board members are seeking an additional $308,961 from the county to provide 2 percent raises for all other positions in the school system so all employees will receive across the board raises.

The cost for providing a 2 percent raise for all school employees totals $725,573, Herndon told school board members last week.

“If we don’t put up the $308,961 we don’t get the $416,612,” said Herndon.

In addition to matching funds for salary hikes, school board members had requested the county provide level funding of $13,256,000 as in the current year along with making up the $888,326 budget gap.

(The deficit includes a state funding shortage of $461,121, 2 percent local match for governor’s SOQ raises totaling $308,961 and increased expenses of $118,244.)

ED-7 trustee R.K. “Dick” Stoneman pointed out that by giving the 2 percent raise to all school employees it could be “kind of misleading.” 

He pointed out the governor is providing $416,612 for the raises this year but will not be guaranteeing any of that money in years to come when the salary increases will continue to have to be funded.

“We’ll have to come up with $725,000 next year and from now on…this is a one shot only,” said Stoneman of the governor’s proposal.

“Our staff hasn’t had a raise in five years,” replied Herndon.

Stoneman asked if any employees would be retiring or leaving through attrition at the end of the school year.

“There will be some but not at this point,” said Herndon.

In other budget related measures, administration is looking into rearranging where some programs will be held, looking into the enrollment of classes and even bringing back some classes, the superintendent said.

“Some teaching positions won’t be there because of the enrollment…some high school classes we just simply won’t have the position,” said Herndon of teaching jobs slated for the budget ax.

“Classes will be generated by student interest. If they don’t make the number, we don’t offer it. It’s just that simple,” said Director of Secondary Education/Accountability Frosty Owens.

On the other hand, Herndon said some classes like welding are being looked at being brought back to the high school. 

In all, the school board had sought $14,232,826 from the supervisors in the upcoming budget year, $976,826 more in local funding than was provided in the current budget year.

“We’re looking at every way to save money and do it ourselves,” Herndon said.

A public hearing on the school budget will be held March 18 at 6 p.m.

The finance committee plans to meet again on March 25 at 9 a.m.