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Halifax County Trustees wrap up year-end budgetary matters

SoVaNow.com / July 01, 2013
The Halifax County School Board spent nearly two hours last Monday night approving final expenditures for the 2012-2013 school year amid discussion of possible changes for the coming year.

While the budgeted expenses for the year showed a deficit of $317,695. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon assured trustees that money will be available to pay necessary bills.

She explained some of the expenses listed would be paid using funds in the new school year budget, but must be listed at the time they are incurred.

“We put everything in our final listing so we would be assured of having sufficient money to cover them all,” Herndon advised, noting that such costs had to be included since they could not be added at a later date.

Trustees also heard a presentation on Mark III Employee Benefits from Dennis Witt and Brent Hooker. They advised that the school system and its employees might benefit from their program. Witt said his company does business only with city and county governments, as well as school systems and has at least 125 entities in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia, serving over 200,000 clients. Because of its size, the company has tremendous purchasing power and is able to offer lower costs, he said.

Trustee Roger Long, a member of the finance committee, said he and Dick Stoneman, along with Herndon and Finance Director Jay Camp, met earlier with Witt to discuss the pre-tax plan and asked that he present it to the full board for their consideration for the next school year.

In other business Monday night, trustees heard a report from Pam Eakes on the county’s application for federal funds for the coming school year. The application includes a request for Title I funds in the amount of $1,728,817 to support the needs of Pre-K students who are failing or most at risk of failure. The funds would pay for supplemental reading and math, instructional coaches and parental involvement in schools with high concentrations of children from low income families. (Due to the federal budget sequester, the funding is nearly $150,000 less than last year’s amount.) Another $281,493 in Title II funds is being sought to support smaller classroom size, an instructional coach and recruiting activities.

Also requested is $5,208 in Title III funds to assist English-as-second language students. Title VI funds in the amount of $108,053 are also requested for support in rural and low income school programs. Yet another program, this one state funded, the Virginia Preschool Initiative, is being sought in the amount of $656,301 which supports nine Pre-K classes.

In order to clear up any questions about their operating procedure, trustees adopted the 11th edition of Roberts Rules of Order. Since there have been charges and clarifications over the years to Roberts Rules which many organizations have been using since 1915,chairman Kim Farson told fellow trustees she is anxious to be sure that this school board is operating under the most up-to-date set of rules.

Farson also named two trustees, ED-1 Phyllis Smith and Long to work as a committee to bring a recommendation back to the full board on the idea of instituting a compensation study. Director of Administration Valdiva Marshall told trustees that in her job of hiring she had no guidelines about salary offerings — something that was the first thing people asked. She also reminded trustees of the salary questions that had arisen during the past year.

ED-4 trustee Cheryl Terry responded that while she would like to see a salary scale provided she worried that the school board would not have sufficient funds to implement it. ED-8 Walter Potts agreed adding. “I don’t deny that our salaries are out of whack. But it’s about money and we won’t have the money to carry it out.”

Smith, however, pointed out that the work of the committee would simply be one of “fact finding” to allow the board to really understand just how things currently stand. She and Long said they will contact other school systems to learn about their salary scales and how they are able to implement them. However, all agreed that it will likely be September or October before they can expect any recommendation from the committee.

After some discussion trustees voted to follow the recommendation of the Virginia School Boards Association in extending the probationary period for all new teachers to five years, up from the current three year probationary period.

Linda Owen, director of Elementary Education/Professional Development, told trustees that she supported the change in that it would give new teachers more time to improve their skills.

In final action before going into closed session to discuss personnel and legal issues, trustees approved a 5 p.m. work session for Monday, July 8. ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield was absent from the Monday meeting.



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