Discussions revolving around money dominated much of the Halifax County School Board’s discussion when trustees met Monday in the public meeting room at the Mary Bethune Office Complex in Halifax.
Three financial related topics, the fiscal year 2020 budget, audit services for student activity funds and purchasing school buses were discussed.
In addition, proposed changes to the student code of conduct were tabled, and school board members recognized outstanding student athletes who excelled during the past school year.
First, interim finance director Robert Aylor presented a revised 2020 budget reflecting actual funding by the board of supervisors that passed 8-0.
On March 25, trustees approved a $59,278,198 budget that included an additional $300,000 in local funding from the county.
However, the supervisors only approved $150,000 of the request, and as a result the budget had to be revised.
Included in the approved $59,278,198 budget was $648,839 for a 2 percent raise for teachers plus a step increase on their salary scale and $406,373 for a 3 percent raise for non-teaching staff totaling $1,055,212.
Also included in the school’s approved budget was $14,550,077 from the county and $35,573,964 from the state.
However, in May, the supervisors approved a $95,503,467 budget that included $14,499,077 in local funding for schools, reflecting $150,000 less than school board members had included in their approved budget.
When school board members asked what could be done to offset the $150,000 deficit, Aylor explained it would be through additional savings with insurance, outsourcing grass cutting, not purchasing technology cart, reduction in transportation routing and a savings in the school’s auto insurance that came in cheaper than expected.
Board members also unanimously approved a $17,000 five-year contract with Robinson, Farmer, Cox, Associates to perform audit services for the student activity fund that resulted in a savings of $14,000 for the first year.
The cost of the annual audit over the five years will be $17,000 for each of the first two years, $17,900 for each of the next two years and $18,200 for the fifth year of the contract, Aylor explained.
Previously, a local audit firm had been performing the audit services for the student activity fund. After going out for bids, Aylor told school board members there would be a $14,000 cost savings.
School board members tabled action on a schedule for consideration to begin replacement of the school’s bus fleet over a seven-year period with a projected interest rate of 3.04 percent.
“We’re intrigued by this proposal,” said Lineburg noting it would ultimately increase the budget line item by $981,000 but would allow the school system to begin replacing the fleet of 128 buses over seven years.
The first year with funds available, nine buses would be leased or purchased, plus buying two additional buses.
Aylor recommended nine buses be leased or purchased each year going forward.
“The payment for the lease/purchase will increase each year,” he said asking trustees to approve the methodology provided funding is available in the coming years.
Over the seven-year period the total cost will grow to $918,274 as $140,182 is needed for leasing nine buses the first year.
However, before school board members vote on approving the proposal, ED-7 trustee Monty Lowery suggested representatives from three bus makers be offered an opportunity to make presentations to the board at its Monday, July 22, meeting.
“This is a monumental thing we’ll be doing,” Lowery said.
Lineburg agreed saying, “We can listen, but we don’t have to make a decision on the spot. We can decide in August. We’ll get it right.”
In addition, the board also took the following actions Monday evening:
• Heard a report from Superintendent Lineburg on activities that include a sight-seeing trip Thursday for third and fourth graders to travel to Washington, D.C.;
• Tabled action until its July 22 meeting on three changes to the code of student conduct;
The most controversial change involves student attendance with a parent note or phone call verifying a student’s absence only being accepted for five absences per year. The current code allows for five absences per semester.
After the fifth absence, a doctor’s note, court subpoena, obituary notice of family/close friend or religious holiday will be required.
Another proposed change involves not allowing any bus drop-offs at commercial sites. However, trustees are considering allowing drop-offs to be made at commercial childcare facilities.
And the third change allows all middle and high school students who have committed violations of school rules to qualify for the student timeout program (STOP). Presently, students with disabilities served by New Beginnings are not eligible to participate in STOP.
• Recognized athletes on the high school boys tennis team, track and field team and girls softball team for their successful seasons of play;
• Moved its Monday, July 8, meeting to Monday, July 22; and
• Went behind closed doors at the conclusion of the meeting to discuss personnel matters.