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Measure to help Boone schools remains up in the air

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Measure to help Boone schools remains up in the air
By Matt Maccaro, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Legislature passed a budget Thursday night but never took up a request added to the agenda by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to give $2.1 million to the Boone County school system to finish the current year.

The Boone County system has lost $9.3 million in property tax revenue in recent months because of the collapse of the coal industry, mainly linked to the bankruptcy filing of Alpha Natural Resources, which owns several large mining operations in Boone County.

“Our county is facing an extremely unprecedented drop in revenue and jobs quite frankly because of the drop in the coal industry,” said Del. Josh Nelson (R-Boone) on the House floor Thursday. “Whatever your opinion of that is, that’s the simple reality of what’s happening in my county.”

Outgoing county superintendent John Hudson has said the emergency budget funding is critical for Boone County schools to get through June, which Nelson echoed Thursday.

“At least the idea of some type of measure to ensure that the students of Boone County are going to be able to finish school for the year, without their teachers having to show up to work unpaid, without resources having to be cut just to finish this school year.”

Boone County has already taken drastic measures to balance its school budget, and has paid its fair share in the past, Nelson pointed out.

“Last year we closed three schools, there were 80 positions that were cut from our school system and the budget from the previous year was dropped by $2.1 million,” Nelson said. “All I’m asking is that when that measure gets here, if you consider what my county and the blood, sweat and tears of many coal miners has provided to the state, and help us out in these hard times.”

Nelson contended that Boone County has provided $58 million of tax revenue to West Virginia, “leaps and bounds” beyond the amount of other counties.

A provision in state code allows school systems to receive supplemental appropriations in a case where that county isn’t able to collect property taxes because of court proceedings.

The Legislature is in recess until Sunday, June 12, when it could take up the measure.