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Halifax County schools face possible $2 million in cuts

Cutting $2 million from expenses could be in the future for Halifax County Public Schools. 

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon brought this to the board’s attention at Monday evening’s special meeting. 

As of Feb. 20, based on amendments by the House of Delegates, the projected FY 2015 state payments, based off an enrollment of 5,085.15 is $34,026,131. 

The Senate projects a state payment of $34,222,809. 

With that information, the finance committee of the school board restructured their proposal for local funding request for the Board of Supervisors to be submitted by Feb. 24. 

The state projection of local funding increase needed rose from $739,868 to $752,277. 

The estimated final increase to VRS increased from $637,198 to $693,529. 

The compensation recommendation estimate decreased from $1,116,381 to $976,483.  Herndon reminded the board that they had not received their compensation study, leaving room for change. 

 The total amount requested to the Board of Supervisors is now $16,563,101. 

The superintendent brought the board’s attention to possible areas that could be cut with the most costly being the LORP/ERIP insurance at $316,680. 

Others included closing the Cluster Spring Early Learning Center, not replacing the assistant principal position at the high school currently held by Pedro Zamora, removing 1.5 GED positions, removing some of the paraprofessionals and removing secondary positions to name a few. 

Halifax County High School is over the number of assistant principal as is, according to Herndon. 

The school system also has over 100 paraprofessionals in the budget and the Standard of Quality of the Department of Education allows for 20. 

“A lot of these are one-on-one, we certainly don’t want to take away from the needs of the children but we are also looking if to see if maybe one paraprofessional could serve more than one child,” said Herndon.

With removing the secondary positions, Herndon felt the school could look into the elective classes to see which ones show less interest from students than others. 

Herndon also feels that HCHS could focus on other areas of interest. Last Wednesday, she attended Danville Community College to talk with them about industrial maintenance, welding and precision machinery. 

DCC would like the high school to help “get kids in the pipeline” for those fields. 

Industrial Maintenance would familiarize students with the skills needed to handle a facilities maintenance position of a building. 

DCC is willing to work through grants to help the high school gain identical equipment to what they have as long as the equipment is placed in the high school and they would like to help in hiring the teacher. 

“They would like someone who goes through their precision machinery so they know how to operate the machines,” said Herndon. 

Maintenance Director Doug Newcomb said, “They want to get them trained faster than what we were doing at the high school, this program through grants and help from DCC. Get the students capable of learning whether or not they want to do it as a career.”  

Currently, some welding is offered through the motor sports program. 

The superintendent also told the board members the school system needed to spend $50,000 in wiring through e-rate. As it is now, the schools are lacking wiring in certain sections of the school rather than having it all throughout the building. 

Herndon also brought concerns given to her brought by principals of the Cluster Springs Early Center and Halifax County Middle School.

HCMS requested that the assistant principals be brought back to 12-month employees to allow for more of their assistance in the summer and due to the snow days they’re needed to assist in various capacities.

“I have tried to encourage all principals that just because the administrators went to 10 month-20 days that doesn’t mean that they all have to come in on the same day. Take those 20 days and spread those out over the summer,” said Herndon. 

Cluster Springs Early Learning Center requested that the board alter the contracts of their two secretaries for the summer so that they may share weeks or reinstate them to 12 months. 

Herndon felt they could spread out their hours as well. 

ED-5 School Board Member Roger Long said the board should know more by their meeting on March 10.  

The board held off on making any more decisions on the budget until they have more information on what they’ll receive from the state.