With their previously approved budget for fiscal year 2021 void, Halifax County School Board considered new recommendations from Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg and possible additional options for savings when they met Tuesday.
Realizing they can longer place support staff on a graded pay plan as previously planned, Lineburg would like to give those employees a raise as well as teachers and administration.
“I don’t see any way possible of getting to that step. I’d like to give them some type of raise. I’d like to give the support staff the highest raise percentage followed by teachers then administration,” said Lineburg.
This is in response to the school system now facing a $1.4 million shortfall between state and local funding.
The superintendent also recommended stripping the budget of any extra hiring’s and focusing solely on raises.
That included removing funds for a part-time safety coordinator, a mental health specialist and writing specialist.
He also said the state had waived the requirement to hire 1.5 school counselors, and he said they no longer had to have the funds for increasing the minimum wage.
The state mandate has been pushed back to May 1 of 2021. Interim finance director Robert Aylor said that means they only need funding for an increase to minimum wage for one month in the fiscal year 2021 budget.
The superintendent also suggested using “end of the year money” to replace the white fleet of cars. The white fleet transports special education students.
Lineburg also said they would be watching the state sales tax funds and lottery funds — as they are the two variables left that could alter the budget.
But, he’s also anticipating losing money there as well.
“We need to save now to protect the budget,” said Lineburg.
In addition to being on a hiring freeze as a way to save money, he also suggested they could save money in operations and transportation, STOP, which is an aide at the alternative school, by cutting two resource officers, have food service workers handle athletic meals, eliminate paying for planning periods and a behavioral specialist.
He said those suggestions would total $378,440 in savings.
“Everyone of them has been important, and we had a good reason for implementing each one of those, but when things get tough, you have to start asking what can we live with and can we live without,” said Lineburg.
Recognizing that not filling positions will drive class size up, ED-4 trustee Jay Camp asked if the state had released a position on class size.
Lineburg said they “anticipate all of that.”
Vice-chairman Sandra Garner-Coleman pointed out that some special education positions must be filled.
The superintendent agreed saying he would fill positions as needed, but they had to be approved by him.
He also said when looking at positions, they’d be looking division wide and would move individuals as needed.
“We can’t not fill every one of them. We will look at which ones we can do and which ones we can’t,” said Lineburg.
The school board took no action on the budget.
The board did complete the following:
• Heard from Lineburg who thanked food service workers who had given out over 20,000 meals in the past two months and thanked Ken Warfield and his congregation as well as other volunteers who helped distribute food while the food program was halted due to COVID-19.
He also said they would have a teacher of the year and excellence service awards next week.
The superintendent also took time to address a news article in the News and Record saying he wanted to “alleviate concerns.” The article centered around options for the next school year.
“We will have school in the fall, and we will have multi-platforms,” said Lineburg.
He said the intent of the article was to say “we are preparing for no matter what we have to do.”
School “could be different, but we hope it’s the same,” said Lineburg.
• Approved a revised homework policy that says no homework should be graded at the elementary level. It also creates an academic advisory committee that would address parent’s further concerns.
• Appointed ED-7 trustee Keith McDowell and ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds to serve on a transportation committee along with transportation director Dwright Elam and director of secondary education Scott Worner. They also appointed ED-1 trustee Kathy Fraley to serve as an alternate.
• Set a late June special board meeting for June 22;
• Tabled a resolution suspended school board policies;
• Approved a one-time exception to the vacation policy to allow 12 month employees to have from June 30 to Dec. 31 to use earned vacation days due to current restrictions on traveling. The vacation days originally had to be used by June 30. The board approved the change with a 7 to 1 vote with ED-2 trustee Roy Keith Lloyd voting against it.