Members of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors’ finance committee are open to considering a one to two penny increase in real estate taxes to help Halifax County School Board increase teacher compensation.
But, they would like the school board to look at other renovation options for Halifax County High School, believing that the school system could get a cheaper price tag.
No official recommendation was made from the finance committee to the full board, but this was part of discussions when members of the finance committee met with county administrator Scott Simpson and finance director Stephanie Jackson Tuesday morning.
Supervisor chairman Hubert Pannell and supervisor Dean Throckmorton also attended the meeting.
This meeting gave supervisors a chance to discuss a finance plan that was presented by Halifax County Public School Superintendent Mark Lineburg to the school board at a recent work session.
The superintendent’s idea included raising real estate taxes by 2 cents, using $2.2 million from the county’s debt service that is used for school buildings, and closing three local elementary schools to address aging facilities and a declining population.
Branch Builds, along with RRMM Architects, LPA Consulting Engineers and Timmons Group submitted an unsolicited PPEA (Public-Private Partnership Act) on March 30, and the school board has a pre-construction service contract with the company. They have estimated building a new school, renovating athletic facilities and demolition would cost $122,970,834.
With the PPEA, the school system could lock in a maximum guaranteed price.
But, according to finance chair Jeff Francisco, some of the building plans they have seen are “over the top.”
When looking at other construction projects, finance committee members have seen schools like Rustburg Middle School, a 136,500 square foot building be completed for $41.3 million for 750 students with room for expansion. Blair Construction along with RRMM Architects is completing the project.
Halifax County High School has a current enrollment of 1,477, so Francisco presumes that the high school could be addressed for around $82 million.
Before making a decision on the high school, Francisco said the supervisors finance committee has to see a “true renovation number,” not a “tear down and rebuild new.”
In days following the meeting, supervisor Garland Ricketts said he feels that his constituents in district 7 are not in favor of rebuilding an entirely new school.
He said a new school makes the rest of the plan “unaffordable.”
“Our county can only afford so much,” Ricketts added.
Francisco, the finance committee chair would like the school system receive $100 million from the county, and use that to address the high school and aging elementary schools.
That $100 million would include monies from the sales tax. County staff has estimated the sales tax will generate $2,845,337.41 in the first year.
In discussing teacher compensation, Francisco said, “the board of supervisors are 100% in favor of increasing teacher salary.”
The finance committee would be willing to discuss further raising taxes to fund teacher salaries, but Francisco is cautious because supervisors have no control over the school board’s general fund.
Ricketts also pointed out that the aspects of the school system’s proposal all depends on the others – rebuilding or renovating the high school, increasing employees’ pay and consolidating elementary schools.
“No portion of it stands by itself,” said Ricketts.
In other action Tuesday morning, the supervisors finance committee recommended using $38,760 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to fund bonuses for 12 county deputies.
In the recent special session of the General Assembly, the compensation board was directed to provide $3,000 bonuses for deputy sheriffs, and of the 45 county deputies, the compensation board funds 33. In the idea of fairness, supervisors decided to recommend using the ARPA funding to fund the benefits for the remaining deputies.
They also recommended approval of a request from the Halifax County Health Department to use carryover funding of $13,000 for shingles vaccines as well as a request from Halifax Soccer Club to use $10,775 in carryover funds.
The previous youth soccer community organization dissolved, and Halifax Soccer Club plans to buy new goals and other equipment, maintain and upgrade fields, provide coach and referee training and cover membership fees for needy families, according to a letter submitted to the finance committee from the president and vice president of the Halifax Soccer Club Board of Directors.
The also tabled a request from Southside Outreach Group regarding waiving building permit fees until after more information is obtained when the full board meets Tuesday evening.