Local News

Troubled school system gets more help from Halifax commissioners

Posted May 7, 2008 2:45 p.m. EDT
Updated May 7, 2008 6:00 p.m. EDT

— The Halifax County Board of Commissioners has advanced the struggling public school system there nearly $500,000 – the second loan in a little more than six months.

In September, the board advanced Halifax County Schools $280,000 from the county's general taxpayer fund so the district could make up for a payroll budget deficit.

The most recent advance, also from the general taxpayer fund, goes to help keep water and electricity in the school system's 16 schools and to help pay property insurance. By July, 67 positions will have to be cut.

Commissioners said the district, which owes the state more than $2 million, had $2,500 in its budget.

"We really couldn't operate a school with the kids not being able to have water," Halifax schools spokesman Keith Hoggard said.

A state audit conducted late last year of the school system's finances found the school system's finance team had little idea how to properly handle finances, showing books out of balance over a two-year period and local funds used at times when state funding should have been used.

County commissioners have been critical of the school system, but say the decision to advance the latest funds was necessary.

"Sometimes, when you're in this situation, you make decisions that you're not happy with, but you have to make (them,)," Gene Minton, vice chairman of the Halifax County Board of Commissions, said.

"The school board, in my opinion, needs to go back and find where that misspent money went," Commissioner J. Rives Manning said.

The school system admits it overspent for years. Now, administrators say, many parents are pulling their children out of Halifax County Schools.

"Since our student population is going down, the amount of money that we get goes down," Hoggard said.

School leaders say every penny counts...as they're trying to work their way out of a financial mess.

County commissioners have also called on the school board to take action against two former school superintendents. School officials says it's a legal matter, and the board is "not comfortable" doing so.