The News & Record
South Boston News & Record
and Mecklenburg Sun
Home   •   News   •   Sports   •   Classifieds   •   Community   •   Health   •   Entertainment   •   Obituaries   •   Opinions   •   Weather
Advertising | Contact | Register
Advanced Search
News

South Hill woman dies in Lunenburg County crash

Driver ejected after vehicle flips

Tense day at schools resolved peacefully

Boil advisory issued in Clarksville


Sports

Comets get GW at home for regional opener


Community


Opinion


A&E

News

School pay raises in doubt with $609,000 budget gap

SoVaNow.com / March 14, 2019
As matters now stand, the Halifax County School Board is well short of the money needed to provide employees with a 5 percent pay hike that the General Assembly has put in the state’s biennial budget for teachers and other instructional personnel.

Administrators say the pending school budget shows a $608,858 shortfall, based on plans to give teachers a 2 percent raise in salary and a step on the teacher pay scale with their years of service. The remaining portion of the 5 percent increase would have to wait until next year, in the second half of the biennial budget, or else Halifax County may be required to give up state funding earmarked for the salary increases.

Trustees also hope to give a 3 percent raise to non-teaching support personnel — school secretaries, maintenance and custodial workers and others — in the coming year, with the full 5 percent pay hike finished out next year. Raises for non-teaching support personnel are not funded in the state budget.

The “compensation to be competitive” line item drives up the cost of the school budget by slightly more than $1 million, Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg told trustees at their monthly meeting on Monday night. Lineburg said the pending budget includes no new programs and eliminates seven teaching positions — a $350,000 savings, but still not enough to offset the amount needed for higher pay.

Lineburg said the Central Office has identified one other major source of budgetary relief: a $183,146 reduction in employee benefits. He called the cost decline “the only silver lining in our budget right now.”

With one more request for new spending added to the mix — $100,000 for major maintenance — the budget comes in $608,858 above the projected level of revenue. “It’s a simple budget, but a difficult budget,” said Lineburg.

The money that Halifax County is receiving from the state for teacher pay raises — around $1 million — is almost entirely offset by reductions in basic aid tied to a projected decline in student enrollment. The Department of Education estimates Halifax County Public Schools will lose 136 students in the coming year.

All told, the school division is set to see a net rise in state funding of only $13,108, under the version of the budget passed by the General Assembly. It awaits the signature of the governor.

In presenting the news to members of the School Board, Lineburg and school finance director Robert Aylor left unaddressed a major part of the school revenue picture: local funding. However, the $608,858 shortfall is based on the assumption supervisors will maintain the current level of funding, $14.25 million.

However, supervisors approved a draft budget last week that slices the county’s contribution for education by $425,077, dropping the total to $13,825,000.

Alluding to the county budget, trustees chairman Joe Gasperini complained about supervisors’ plans to provide up to a 5 percent pay raise to county staff while leaving the School Board without money to do the same for its workers.

“We’re part of the county [too],” said Gasperini. “We need to pay our employees to be competitive just as the county pays their employees to be competitive.”

He also criticized supervisors for advertising a 2-cent increase in the real estate tax rate, which would generate roughly $750,000 in new revenue, “and none of that is coming to schools.

“Something has to change. Hopefully people will get out there and say something has to be done,” Gasperini said.

The chairman of the supervisors’ budget committee, J.T. Davis, has said the reduction in county funding still leaves Halifax on target to meet its annual goal of providing 120 percent of the required local contribution to schools. The county’s funding target went down this year in step with the decline in state aid, which in turn resulted from enrollment losses.

Gasperini and vice chairman Sandra Garner-Coleman warned that the squeeze on the School Board budget could make it impossible for trustees to meet the state’s requirement for a 5 percent pay hike for teachers over the two-year budget biennium. If Halifax County Public Schools can’t find money to give out raises, it will be required to give back the $1 million coming in from the state for that purpose.

“Everybody is going to get a raise. The schools, not only are we not going to get a raise, we’re going to lose a million dollars,” said Gasperini.

“If we lose a million dollars, we have to fire another 20 teachers.”

The shortfall also leaves the Central Office far short of the funding it will need to reform the step pay scale for non-teaching support personnel. In the current budget cycle, the School Board was able to reduce the number of steps on the teacher pay scale, under which compensation escalates with each year of service. Lineburg said it took $324,000 to straighten out the teacher pay scale; to do the same for non-teaching staff, it will cost roughly $560,000.

“This is a smaller employee group with less wages, which just goes to show how far we’re behind in that area,” he said.

Gasperini highlighted another aspect of the budget that he described as woeful: the $100,000 request for maintenance money. He said the School Board needs at least $350,000 for maintenance under a “bare bones” request. “We’re supposed to put forth a needs-based budget, not what someone else says,” he said.

ED-7 trustee Monty Lowery lamented the budget outlook with the county but, drawing a contrast with Gasperini, urged trustees to work with supervisors on a solution for the shortfall.

“Do I agree with everything the Board of Supervisors is doing? Probably not,” said Lowery, who observed “it’s obvious the two boards are divided.” However, “as long as we’re divided, we’re holding back our students, we’re holding back our schools, we’re holding back our county.

“I firmly believe until we get past that point, we’re going to continue beating our heads against the wall” on budget issues that crop up year after year, Lowery continued. He urged fellow members to do “whatever it takes” to improve relations with the Board of Supervisors: “Like the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey.”

“Maybe we’re not going to agree on everything, but we can still be unified,” he said.

The next step in the budget process comes Monday, March 18 with the Board of Supervisors hosting a 6 p.m. public hearing in Halifax on the draft $95.6 million county budget.



Tell-a-Friend | Submit a Comment

153

Comments

I agree totally with ED#7 School Board member Lowery when he properly stated that “as long as we’re divided, we’re holding back our students, we’re holding back our schools, we’re holding back our county." The problem is the Board of Supervisors, well mainly two Board members who effectively run the show and generally hold this Halifax County back on the side of any progress. Board Chair Dennis Whitt was the school superintendent who first floated the idea to consolidate schools and build new ones. So why has he changed his view now? One answer, the man behind the curtain who controls this County, JT Davis. He doesn't want solar, he doesn't want to fund a new school and he doesn't want to give teachers a raise unless the School Board yields to his absurd plan but he DOES want land use taxation for himself as a large landowner and his good ole boy buddies. In fact, he wants to control the IDA which hampers their economic development efforts. He needs to GO!!!

Comments

Little shallow minds seem to be who we've elected to serve the interests of the community. They dont realize that the talent and ability to move us forward is in the quality of the TEACHERS not some shiny new building. You cannot keep good teachers if you are paying them just above poverty levels while we lavishly spend on a new courthouse and allow the existing county buildings to decay. A new school will look like the one it will replace in ten years. BOS not providing realistic budgets for upkeep is the idiocy we are stuck on. I recall that $40million from consolidation of SOBO schools was wasted by not bringing up taxes slightly. This $40mil was not used to provide upkeep to schools. Heard this from a former supervisor. We have a spending problem out here.

Comments

Let see Lineburg and his staff could take a 10% pay cut, with the savings in FICA etc that would probably be close to 100k. Cut out the dual bus routes. Cut some of the smaller sports that would save some. I would suggest that all admin take a 10% pay cut as well. The county could do away with the IDA and that would fund the school system. The only thing they have done is spend a lot of tobacco commission money on empty buildings.
I agree with JT we don't need a new school! When we pay off the debt of the elementary schools and the court house then we can spend money on the high school. We also don't need a 2% increase in property taxes. The school board needs to learn to cut and live within its means. BTW how much does it cost for all those cars to drive the kids that can't ride a bus around? That would save! Stop all these mamby pamby behavior programs etc how much would that save?

Comments

Seriously- budget $200k for exterior pressure washing and brick facade repair. $100k for new doors and or painting. $2million for new boilers and other Hvac repairs. budget $300k for interior painting plus remodeling the 1st floor and we can use this school for at least 10 more years. In fact, we could easily budget a 5 year plan to upgrade the most essential items first the school needs This rush to blindly spend $100 mil is ignorant and a foolish folly. Think like you are a homeowner. We don't just crush and rebuild teh house becuase it needs a new HVAC system and roof.

Comments

Educators-Pittsylvania County just posted over 20 new openings. Campbell County has almost every core area posted at multiple levels. Mecklenburg County has over 10 openings posted. Lynchburg City schools has over 20 and Danville has almost 20 openings. Drive the 30-45 minutes to these areas and make yourself $10-$15,000 more a year than you do in Halifax. The grass is greener and that green is money.

Comments

It is embarrassing that we lag behind everyone else in paying our teachers.

Comments

As an educator, I could go to the poorest county in the commonwealth and make just over $1,000 less than what I make in Halifax. The 2nd poorest county in the state would pay me almost $7,000 more. The 3rd poorest county would pay almost $10,000 more. Does anyone see the trend developing?

Comments

Here we go again! Teachers you will get the rest of the raise next year!! Teachers have heard that numbers of times in the past and “next” year never comes! Even if the rest did come, you still haven’t gained a thing!! This is the way it has been for the last 50 years -you just have different players! All of the young teachers go get a job in neighboring county because you will put up with this the rest of your career if you sty in Halifax!!!

Comments

BOS just remember the Edmunds tax increase may not pass in Halifax. Some of the public is upset about the complete lack of upkeep at the high school. I think the teachers deserve the raise, but the school board has to come up with a maintenance program to fix immediate issues. Other county departments deserve money to upgrade their programs. This can't be about the school system every year in hopes the BOS can find money to bail out a top heavy system.


Sports Coverage

See complete sports coverage for Halifax and Mecklenburg counties.