TAZEWELL, Va. — Several vacant teaching and secretarial positions in Tazewell County will be eliminated in order to help fund a 3-percent pay increase for all employees, school officials said Monday.

The county’s school board, which met in emergency session Saturday morning, also voted to discontinue the existing alternative education program. Students in the alternative education program will now be served by other existing programs, School Superintendent Dr. Brenda Lawson said.

“The board voted to give a 3-percent-plus step increase to all employees,” Lawson said. “That will require the school board to make some reductions. They will be through attrition. We will not be replacing three teachings positions, but there will in all probability be additional positions if enrollment doesn’t warrant a teacher. We will not be replacing two secretaries that retired, and the board voted to discontinue the existing alternative education program. Those students (in the program) will be served through existing programs.”

The learning academy was used for students facing long-term suspensions or expulsion.

School officials had originally requested a 5-percent step increase for teachers. The Board of Supervisors voted Friday to provide an increase of $1,099,532 in local funds for the school system. However, that funding allocation was about $1.5 million shy of what was needed to give teachers a 5-percent pay increase, according to school board chairman Mike Dennis.

“We are still going to have to secure resources to fully fund that (the 3 percent) increase,” Lawson said. “But our board is committed to not taking any resources from children and teachers. Those savings will have to come from other areas.”

Because budget talks with the county stretched into the month’s end, teacher contracts have not yet been awarded.

“We are working on them as we speak,” Lawson said. “Twelve month employees will receive their contract first, and then the other contracts will be awarded.”

Lawson said it will take two to three weeks for all of the contracts to be awarded.

“We are appreciative of the additional money that was appropriated by the governing body, and we’ll put that money to good use,” Lawson said. “We are excited about getting this budget process behind us and looking forward to the new school year and being ready for our children to return to us.”

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com