Halifax County School Board approved a much-trimmed budget that only saved raises for teachers, administration and support staff when they met Monday evening.
With several programs and incentives cut in the process due to a much smaller budget than imagined, the board did include a 1% raise and step increase for teachers.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg said that is the equivalent to 2.7%.
Also included was a 1% raise for administration and 3% for support staff.
The superintendent noted the school board wanted to focus on support staff this year, and they had the highest raise percentage in the previously approved budget.
The school system also had to include $11,000 to cover a state mandate for minimum wage.
They also picked up a 70% of an 8.4% increase to health insurance. Employees will cover the remaining 30%.
Also included in the budget is monies for special education – regional tuition and $276,944 for reserve for FY21.
Martha Brizendine, director of special education, and finance director Robert Aylor explained the regional tuition covers funding for special education students who use the most resources. They also said they would get reimbursed that funding, and Aylor said those students aren’t counted in the ADM (average daily membership) funding.
The balanced budget totals $1,704,397 including $400,000 less from the county budget, lapse in savings for retirement, reduction in staff and operational savings.
The board had previously considered more than $835,816 worth of programs and incentives for every school, but none of that was able to be included, and they had to cut other programs and incentives.
Included in $378,4440 worth of savings are operations and transportation savings, removal of STOP program, not drug testing VHSL affiliated students, cutting two resource officers, eliminate conference travel, funds for athletic meals, eliminating a planning period pay and behavioral specialist funding.
The superintendent stressed that each one of these items were “meaningful” and that he’d like to see it put back in the budget as soon as the school system was able.
ED-2 trustee Roy Keith Lloyd agreed saying they had worked hard to achieve those items and suggested the board make a commitment to reinstate those cuts as soon as possible.
“We need to make sure it gets back in and not fall to the wayside,” he added.
Vice-chairman Sandra Garner-Coleman, who made a motion to accept the budget, amended her motion to include a stipulation saying they would reinstate those items as soon as funding was available.
Chairman Todd Moser also suggested Lineburg work with Sheriff Fred S. Clark and South Boston Chief of Police Jim Binner about replacing the additional officers. Lineburg said that was already in the works.
He also reminded the board there are still resource officers at each school with these cuts.
ED-1 trustee Kathy Fraley also asked the board to keep in mind that teachers are going to be doing a lot of things they’ve never done before.
She said she would like the board to try to do something special for teachers next year such as pay for their entire health insurance if possible.
“We need to somehow recognize them in some fashion,” she added.
The board also reviewed $1.3 million the school system expects to receive from CARES Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which Lineburg said would be in the form of grant reimbursements.
He said those grants can only be used for certain matters, and he anticipates using it or technology, safety, learning and instruction.
“We will get reimbursed as we go,” said Lineburg.
Funds would go towards tools to help with distance learning, he said, and they’re working with the county to get more Internet access for students.
As far as safety, he said it would cover funds for nurses, personal protection equipment and sanitation.
He also said it would cover funding to help catch up students who missed instruction the previous school year and professional development.
The superintendent also explained they couldn’t include the $1.3 million in the operating budget because then the board would automatically be in deficit in the following year.
Garner-Coleman also asked Aylor how much was already spent towards these matters, and he plans to report to the board at their next meeting on that spending.
In other matters Monday, the board unanimously approved a resolution suspending school board policies because some are currently inconsistent with current laws due to the coronavirus, and they discussed potentially having a school board retreat in the near future.
The board also heard from Barbara Coleman-Brown, president of the Halifax/South Boston Chapter of the NAACP, who asked the board to keep in mind they needed to have equitable and excellent learning for all students.
She reminded to them to keep the rural students in mind when planning the next school year.
“What used to be done is not enough,” said Coleman-Brown. “We’re all in this together.”