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Halifax trustees hash out budget priorities / December 05, 2019

In preparation of the budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021, the Halifax County School Board discussed their wish list ideas for county schools at a budget work session on Monday

The nighttime meeting at Mary Bethune was lightly attended, but three School Board trustees-elect — Jay Camp, Kathy Fraley and Keith McDowell — sat in to listen.

“School principals submitted a request for needs,” said Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg, explaining a list of proposed expenditures for next year’s budget.

A number of ideas were thrown in the mix — from additional personnel, support staff, higher salaries, security needs, to new vehicles. Creating the wish list is the starting point for the budget process while the school division waits for Gov. Northam to release a proposed state budget later this month.

Trustees offered their own thoughts for priorities in the fiscal year 2020-21 budget. “A mental health advisor,” said ED-2 trustee Roy Keith Lloyd, saying one needs to be added to the personnel request. Lloyd believes a mental health advisor is needed to help evaluate a student’s readiness to re-enter the schools after multiple discipline infractions.

Monty Lowery, who will be stepping down at the end of December, encouraged fellow trustees to be vigilant attendees at discipline hearings.

“It is anticipated there will be [state] funds for a psychologist with strings attached,” said Lineburg, due to the growing mental health needs.

Security enhancements with additional cameras and school resource officers were added to the list.

“The custodians need to have matching uniforms at all schools,” offered ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds. Custodians need to be easily recognized by first responders in the event of an emergency, he said.

“Currently the high school custodians wear polos,” said Steve Brumfield, director of operations and maintenance. Uniforms are contracted out to UniFirst and Cintas.

Trustees plan to reconvene to discuss the budget after Central Office administrators pull together side-by-side comparisons of employee compensation in neighboring counties. Trustees agreed that there needs to be a salary adjustment for employees with 10-20 years experience who have fallen behind due to the shortcomings with the salary step pay schedule.

“Two years ago we had everybody on scale,” said board chair Sandra Garner-Coleman.

Trustees decided to conduct the budget meetings as a team over the next three months, instead of appointing several members to a finance committee.

The next school board meeting will be Monday, Dec. 9 at Meadville Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.

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