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School Board takes request for $2.2 million in added funding to supes

South Boston News / March 01, 2018
The Halifax County School Board spent about 90 minutes Monday night discussing a new division budget for the coming year. To meet requests for employee pay raises, additional teachers and other needs, trustees will ask County Supervisors for $2,213,554 on top of last year’s local education contribution.

Along with the additional spending, the School Board is considering the closure of the Cluster Springs Early Learning Center and elimination of some teaching positions to free up funds for other priorities.

According to School Superintendent Mark Lineburg, the budget requests were collected from school principals and administrators during the fall months, prior to coming before school trustees for consideration.

The proposed budget includes the following major items:

» $1,048,030 in new funding for a three percent pay hike for teachers and a two percent increase for administrators.

» $369,618 for increased health care costs — that figure is an estimate and is hoped to be less, school officials emphasized.

» $159,000 for mandatory major maintenance.

» $467,818 for additional staffing requirements.

» $1,223,923 for equipment, food and transportation.

The above items add up to $3,268,389, but trustees are eyeing offsets of $1,053,835 through budget changes that include the closure of the Cluster Springs Early Learning Center. The move would save $98,155 in operating costs.

Larger savings would come with the elimination of seven teaching positions due to lowered enrollments, which adds another $350,000 in savings. The school division also expects to receive an additional $605,680 with the new biennial state budget, which will not be determined until the General Assembly and the Governor complete budget negotiation. Together, these items would bring $1,053,835 for the local school budget, which goes into effect July 1, 2018.

The Board of Supervisors will be asked to cover the balance of $2,214,554.

Other options for dealing with pay increases included a possible two percent salary increase for all staff, which would cost $726,249, or possibly a one percent salary hike, which would cost $360,811.

Also not included in the above total is the compression of the teacher pay scale from the current 47 steps to 30 steps at a cost of $353,053. Lineburg has been very supportive of reforms to the pay scale, noting that few teachers would ever reach the top of the pay scale at the 47th step.

ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds questioned whether or not a pay scale for other employees was under consideration. Lineburg responded that he wants to consider a pay scale for non-teaching employees next year after he has finalized the teacher pay scale this year.

More will be known about the estimated cost of health care probably by next week when the county’s health care analyst Patsy Akridge visits.

New staff requirements include a parapro physical education person at Halifax County Middle School, with two new special education teachers, one at Meadville and the other at the HCMS, an autism specialist and two autism teachers and a behavioral specialist, a data and school testing stipend, compensation for region and state activities for ten days and tuition for the CTE Academy.

Major maintenance items include awnings for bus/car riders and replaced blinds at Sinai Elementary as well as an upgrade to the cafeteria’s sound system there. New stage curtains are needed at both Scottsburg and Meadville Elementaries with Scottsburg also needing a storage unit.

The high school needs new classroom furniture and interactive whiteboards while several schools need to replace metal chairs. More chairs and tables are also need for more professional development, all totaling $159,000.

The $1,223,933 for equipment, food and transportation includes 10 new school buses ($860,000), four new special education buses (248,928), four used cars to transport special needs students ($48,000), training on the versatrans routing system (($12,000) and a food supplement of $35,000 for sport programs for athletes who need to have a meal during six-hour trips to sporting events.

During Monday’s advertised public comment period on the upcoming year’s budget, only one person addressed the board. Kristy Yancey asked that the Cluster Springs Early Learning Center not be closed. She said she has a child there and fears that removing him to a larger school could be traumatic for him. With only 73 students at the little school, she feels the children will be much better off in a smaller environment.

However, trustees were advised that nearby Cluster Springs Elementary has sufficient room for the 73 young students since the school was built to house 700 students and currently has only about 500.

“There are classrooms there available for those students,” trustees were told.

With many gaps remaining to be filled in the budget, trustees will meet again on Monday afternoon, March 5 at 6 p.m. in the school board conference room for a second budget work session as they try to finalize a draft budget to present to County Supervisors to advertise for public comment on March 19.

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