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School funding needs rise by $3 million / February 15, 2018

While the upcoming Halifax County school budget remains “a work in progress,” the Halifax County School Board is pondering teacher pay increases of up to three percent if the state comes through with more K-12 money to help shoulder the burden.

Interim finance director Robert Aylor stressed to trustees that many gaps must be filled and decisions made before the contours of the budget are known. The biggest question mark hanging over the process is state funding for K-12 education. In his outgoing biennial budget, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe called for a two percent teacher pay hike in the second year of the budget, starting Dec. 1, 2019.

The budget is now in the hands of the General Assembly, which will make its changes before sending a package to Gov. Ralph Northam for approval and possible further revisions.

While the amount of state money remains up in the air, Aylor and Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg have developed numbers for what it will take to raise the pay of county teachers and school staff.

The pay increases, along with other requested school needs, would drive up the budget by $3 million above the current $57.7 million package. The budget for the new fiscal year takes effect July 1.

At the regular monthly School Board meeting on Monday night, Aylor presented three different options for pay raises:

three percent for teachers and two percent for administrators, costing the school division $1,048,030;

two percent for all employees, at a cost of $726,249;

one percent for all employees, costing $360,811.

It would take an additional $286,275 to reform the teacher pay scale, which currently consists of 47 separate steps and doesn’t offer higher pay based on experience until a teacher puts in 10 years. The $286,275 sum would allow the division to compress the pay scale to 31 steps.

School Board chairman Joe Gasperini and vice chairman Sandra Coleman each said they wanted to give the three percent salary increase, but ED-6 trustee Todd Moser said that while he would like to see teachers get as much as possible, the School Board should wait on the state budget before making any decisions on pay hikes.

Gasperini also expressed strong support for compressing the step pay for teachers, since very few ever reach the top of the scale.

ED-2 trustee Roy Keith Lloyd brought up another salary request: restoring the pay of coaches who took cuts in last year’s budget. ED-7 trustee Monte Lowery agreed, noting that several coaches put in extra time without compensation when their teams advanced in postseason play.

Lowery also urged fellow trustees to do more for employees on the lower rungs of the pay scale. Some employees might get only an extra $525 increase with a three percent increase whereas those making $50,000 would get a $1,000 increase with a two percent increase.

Aylor also outlined other expenses and needs that trustees will have to consider as they develop the budget:

» School divisions have been told to expect an average rise of eight percent in health insurance premiums, which would translate to $369,618 in additional cost in Halifax County. (Aylor said the size of the county’s increase should be known by Feb. 21.)

» Requests for additional teaching personnel would require money in the budget for a physical education parapro ($25,000); two more special ed teachers at Meadville Elementary and the middle school ($100,000), two elementary school math specialists ($100,000); a CTE Academy instructor for three programs that each serve seven students at the high school ($21,525); and a middle school reading specialist ($50,000).

» It would take $17,282 for two assistant principals at the middle school and $18,180 for two assistant principals at the high school for 12 months.

A data and testing coordinator at the high school has also been requested, at a cost of $60,000.

» The special education department says it needs $150,000 for an autism specialist and two autism teachers. Another $400,000 is being sought to hire three psychologists, four speech pathologists and an occupational therapist. However, these services are currently being contracted out, so there would be little or no additional cost in hiring personnel to add to the staff.

» New equipment and vehicles and major maintenance items would require another $424,474.

Together, the requests would raise the budget by $3 million over the current year.

Aylor said the School Board could make an offsetting cut by closing the Cluster Springs Early Learning Center, which would save $86,310 in operational costs. He also projected that with the loss of student enrollment, seven teaching positions might be eliminated.

The next step in the budget process is a Feb. 26 public hearing at the School Board conference room at the Bethune Office Complex in Halifax. The public hearing is set to begin at 6 p.m.

In other business Monday night, trustees:

• appointed Lowery and Lloyd to study the upcoming year school calendar, although the calendar has already been approved for the 2018-19 school year. Gasperini said the committee may want to seek changes before next year’s calendar committee begins its work.

• added two more members, Jana Daniel, a Sydnor Jennings teacher and Lisa Long, director of elementary instruction, to the Facilities Study committee to give more input on the needs of the elementary schools. Trustees also released David Graham from serving on the committee.

• approved the creation of the Small and Rural School Coalition which neighboring systems have already joined.

• approved a Capital Improvement Plan Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with county supervisors which calls for the superintendent to prioritize projects costing over $50,000 that the school budget cannot fund, but which the county may pay for when money is available;

• reviewed the Capital Improvement Plan which will be updated annually.

• and were treated to a delightful presentation by students from Sinai Elementary School.

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If enrollment is dropping, then why do we need new teachers? LEVEL FUND THE SCHOOL SYSTEM!


Allpolitical2 when are you running for office so all these problems can be solved!! You said you would run so get on with it or get off the pot!!!

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