County Manager Tony Brown has presented commissioners a preliminary financial plan which proposes no tax increase, keeping the rate at 78 cents per $100 of value. It also provides a competitive market adjustment rate of 2 percent for full-time employees along with a step increase to allow for progression within their salary grade. The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $42,013,566.
Hugh Credle, chair of the Weldon City Schools Board of Education, spoke first with fellow board member O.D. Sykes at his side.
“As a district, we very much appreciate all of the support we have received from the county and look forward to building a much stronger relationship in future,” he said. “The additional monies we have received for special projects has allowed us to update some of our facilities to include painting at the elementary and high school, a new front to the high school, updated furniture and carpet in both media centers and an updated science lab at the high school.”
He said, however, the high school has been on the list for renovations for quite some time. “We have been asking for several years for funding to give our students the quality school building they so rightfully deserve.”
Credle said the high school needs updated restrooms, cafeteria, a ceiling lift with a new roof, replacement of windows and several other structural issues. “We know that you will do all that you can to provide us with adequate funding to address these needs.”
Bill Hodge of the Coalition for Education and Economic Security told the board it believes it must focus on maximizing its current expense appropriation. “Unfortunately, next year’s proposed current expense funding is only 1 percent more than six years ago and the lowest amount in the last five budgets.”
Conversely, he said, “Halifax will have a huge capital outlay budget” of $4.2 million, “41 percent bigger than last year and 45 percent bigger than six years ago. Halifax County has an inferior academic reputation earned over many years. Our focus must be quality teachers, teacher retention programs and devices and programs for digital learning.”
With the three school systems in the county now having their own supplemental taxes, the county will have appropriate funds to operate at a higher standard, he said. “The local funds operate our schools and help provide a sound basic education. The commissioners piece of the puzzle is to provide adequate current expense funding. Commissioners should not shortchange their responsibility. Education funding must be our county’s top priority.”
He said the proposed capital outlay budget sinks “too much money into bricks and mortar — not using our limited resources to impact students’ academic performance.”
Final adoption of the budget is scheduled for June 19 at 9:30 a.m. in the boardroom of the Historic Courthouse in Halifax.