With state officials revisiting a budget that has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and tax revenue dwindling with businesses closed or affected, Halifax County School Board also will have to revise its budget.
The board previously approved their $61,648,812 FY2021 budget in March that included pay increases for teachers, administrations and support staff, but now that budget is void.
It’s back to the drawing board for Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg, interim finance director Robert Aylor and their team who are anticipating a $1.4 million shortfall.
“I thought we had a good budget… it’s real disappointing,” Lineburg told school board members, central office personnel and the public when they held an electronic information session Monday evening.
Previously, Governor Ralph Northam had proposed targeting the Virginia Pre-School Initiative and at-risk students with additional funding, and the Virginia General Assembly wanted to add funding for salaries, according to Aylor.
Now, he said, the governor is proposing the school funding be $1 million short.
“It’s a whole different world, but I can’t tell you anything until I know state revenue,” Aylor said on Tuesday.
He said they also have sales tax and lottery funds to consider.
“In my 42 years of school finance, I’ve never had to deal with anything like this. It’s catastrophic,” the interim finance director added.
The Virginia General Assembly are set to meet this week, Lineburg said then the school system will receive a worksheet from the Virginia Department of Education to see what their final numbers are, and they’ll go from there to see what has to be cut.
Unfortunately, he said, they’ll first have to start by looking at raises.
“Our budget was built on giving raises. We will have to start there. I’m holding out hope that we will be able to give a little bit of a raise,” said Lineburg.
The previously approved budget was built with the expectation of receiving $14,400,077 in local funding and $38,810,447 from the state.
Now, the superintendent is still expecting to receive more from the state than last year, but not as much as they were hoping for. The county budget also is up in the air.
Earlier this month, Halifax County Board of Supervisors opted out of approving their budget.
The school system also is looking to receive a stimulus check that the superintendent anticipates to be roughly $1.2 million and should come soon.
But, he said there are some restrictions on how that money can be spent.
He said some of that money would go towards planning for possible remote learning for the next school year, hiring additional custodians, cleaning supplies, money to hire additional nurses, to help at risk students and so forth.
“Remember, it’s one time money,” Lineburg warned.
The school system already has some supplies, according to nurse manager Tina Slabach and director of maintenance and operations Steve Brumfield.
Slabach said they do have some masks that would be kept in the clinic for those who are high-risk and may need it.
ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds asked if they had enough masks for all school students and staff such as custodians.
“If everyone needs a mask, I anticipate we wouldn’t be in school,” said Slabach.
But, she reiterated they did have some masks for those with underlying conditions and hope to have more by August.
As far as custodians, Brumfield said they do have gloves and some masks for custodians. He also is looking into getting a sanitizer that is supposed to be able to kill the virus.
“Anything I need to get, I can get by early May,” said Brumfield.
Chairman Todd Moser questioned if Brumfield was purchasing regular masks for custodians or N95 masks.
Brumfield said he had currently bought regular masks but could have access to N95 and would make sure they had some on hand in case of something extreme.
“We need to get on that,” said ED-8 trustee Walter Potts. “Everyone and their mama are looking for these things.”
In addition to the stimulus check, the school system also is anticipating having carry over money in the current budget due to schools not being operated since March.
Some areas the superintendent said could see some savings is funding to operate the schools and paying substitute teachers.
With that carry over money, he hopes to tackle some smaller capital projects then have some leftover for reserve funds.
Lineburg also said they’re on a hiring freeze right now in an attempt to save money.
Vice chairman Sandra Garner-Coleman asked if he had a bottom-line number on figures.
The superintendent said he did not on Monday, but would know more later this week.
“We will salvage anything we can,” said Lineburg in reference to re-configuring the upcoming budget.
The interim finance director stressed that next year’s budget is going to look different.
“We’re going to piece together what we can,” said Aylor. “It’s a shame.”
The superintendent anticipates having a new FY2021 budget for board members to consider at their May meeting.