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$1.3 million cut out of Halifax County schools budget

SoVaNow.com / March 31, 2014
The Halifax County School Board spent Thursday fashioning a tentative budget that calls for almost $57 million in spending next year after taking away $1.3 million in cuts, mostly in instructional staffing.

The proposed budget also cuts out health insurance for 62 retirees who continue to receive LORP-ERIP (Local Option Retirement/Early Retirement Incentive Plan) incentives.

The trustees met for several hours Thursday to finalize the budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. Their work was tempered by two factors — one, the proposed budget in all likelihood will be revised once the General Assembly and the governor settle on a state spending plan, and two, the school division expects no additional money for operations this year from county government.

The Board of Supervisors has said it will hold the county’s contribution to education at last year’s number, $13,277,529. The School Board’s budget proposal incorporates that figure and the $34 million for the local division proposed last year by outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Following a closed session, trustees voted 5-3 to approve the $56,958,660 budget.

“We have to send a budget to Halifax County Finance Director Stephanie Jackson by Tuesday, April 1,”said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon “so we’ll send her what we have now,” adding that she feels the budget will have to be amended when state funding is finalized.

The $1.3 million in cuts implemented by trustees are driven by two cost increases over which the School Board has little or no control: a hike in employee health insurance premiums — estimated between 11 and 18 percent — and a state requirement for an extra $836,451 payment into the Virginia Retirement System pension fund.

The School Board also anticipates a $183,501 reduction in state and federal funding. All told, the three items add up to a $1,312,326 hole in the budget.

To offset the shortfall, the School Board approved a list of cuts:

elimination of the LORP/ERIP health insurance benefits, for a savings of $316,680

a reduction in secondary education positions at the middle school and high school, based on cutting out classes with light enrollments, $176,529

a decrease of one special ed lead teacher, $61,335;

restructuring the role of instructional coaches, $132,000

eliminating a special ed teacher, $52,180

eliminating eight special ed paraprofessional positions, $163,000.

The budget also calls for cutting out one-half of one position with the GED program, saving $22,000, and eliminating $5,000 in expenses for the GED program that are not covered by a 21st Century grant.

Other staffing cuts include two part-time, locally funded cafeteria monitors ($7,800 each); a middle school LAN manager who will become a teacher (saving $37,000); not replacing an elementary LAN manager who is retiring ($31,000); not replacing a elementary guidance counselor who is retiring ($73,000); and eliminating six other staff positions through attrition ($120,000).

The budget also proposes a $132,502 decrease in operating and maintenance funding, and a $15,000 savings by reimbursing the cost of field trips with federal funds.

Of the three trustees who voted “no” on the proposed budget, ED-8 representative Walter Potts cited his opposition to the LORP health insurance cuts, which affects 52 people who receive a benefit worth $6,090 each.

Fay Satterfield said she could not support the decision to eliminate the position of the retiring elementary guidance counselor. “I worked in elementary guidance for a long time and I know just how important it is for the young children to have a guidance counselor. They need someone to advocate for them,” Satterfield said.

Terry said she felt that the proposed cuts were all lumped together and while trustees might approve of one and not approve another, she felt it was just too early in the process to have to decide on the cuts. “We don’t know what funds we will get from the state yet and things may be better than we think. I just was not comfortable in trying to make the decision before I had all the information,”

The school budget now heads to the Board of Supervisors, which is expected to incorporate the package into the overall county budget.

The $56,958,660 in proposed school spending is lower than the level set in the current fiscal year budget, which ends June 30. The current appropriated amount is $57,116,384.

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Comments

It almost appears that SBM Satterfield had a vested interest or conflict to vote for anything concerning the school board. That's the problem with retired school personnel being involved with the school board business. This only scratches the top in cuts that should be made to the school system to bring it in line with other counties in VA. The other problems are to many children at the high and Middle school, and our Cadillac school buildings that we must maintain.

Comments

Wheels on the bus go round and round...

Since Ms Herndon is adamant about cutting retiree LORP, enquiring minds want to know how much the County is paying into HER retirement. If she were subject to the same LORP as the teachers who were misled (dare I say lied to outrightly) to convince them to retire early, she'd be singing a different tune.

Still say she's highly overpaid compared to same position in surrounding counties.

Comments

I said when the "new" high school was built, we should have two. SHould not have built new elementary schools, should have remodeled the old ones. Stapleton was bad, but this lady is a free spender. School administrtors are the problem on the board that Long guy is a retired sup so he will back her. Satterfield does not have a clue. I agree with Potts which is not often the LORP should not be cut. I don't see how LORP can save other counties money but not Halifax.


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