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Small counties react to the 1 percent school budget cuts

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Small counties react to the 1 percent school budget cuts
By Tina Alvey,(Beckley) Register-Herald Reporter

Editor's Note: Here are two news articles about how some smaller county school districts are reacting to the 1 percent county school budget cuts that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Oct. 5:

Facing budget cuts, Greenbrier schools standing pat for now

While it appears some county school boards around the state are already scrambling to figure out how to handle a 1 percent budget cut announced by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Oct. 5, the Greenbrier school system is standing pat for now.

Saying that the state Department of Education has not yet received a signed order from the Governor's Office, Greenbrier County Superintendent of Schools Sallie Dalton told The Register-Herald her board is not taking any immediate action.

Dalton said it appears from preliminary estimates that the budget cut will trim approximately $300,000 from Greenbrier County's school system, but the board will be limited in what can be done to comply with the order, if and when it is signed and information is provided by the Department of Education.

"We'll look at every aspect of our budget and determine what will have the least impact on instructional services," Dalton said. "Providing instructional services is our No. 1 priority."

Besides, she added, "State law doesn't permit mid-year personnel cuts. The budget doesn't change that. Only natural attrition would reduce personnel at this point in the school year, and even that isn't a foregone conclusion because student/teacher ratios have to be maintained."

Saying she had learned about the impending budget cuts "through the media like everyone else," Dalton said she had told her staff, "We are not going to speculate and guess about what this could mean."

The school budget cuts, along with 4 percent across-the-board cuts for other state agencies, which the governor also announced on Oct. 5, are intended to help plug a projected $250,000 hole in West Virginia's 2015-16 budget.

State budget cuts put Preston Schools at a crossroads

The Preston County News & Journal

The 1 percent cut to all school aid ordered by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin nearly two weeks ago will have a giant impact on Preston County’s school system. According to school officials, the county system will take a $270,762 cut to its bottom line next fiscal year beginning in July 2016.

The reduction in state public school aid was included in an across-the-board 4 percent spending cut for state agencies. Tomblin said the cuts are necessary because of unexpected and unprecedented drops in severance tax revenues.

One week after Gov. Tomblin announced the cuts, the Preston County Board of Education held its regular meeting. BOE member Ann Robb was first to speak-up.

“We are so far into the year, and the budget was set months and months ago.” Robb said.

Superintendent Stephen Wotring told the board he did not know how the cut will directly affect next year’s budget this early in the process. But no question about it, every school in Preston County will take a hit, which ultimately will affect the educational services and opportunities our students will have access to.

The $270,762 cut to the county’s budget clearly makes issuing a new school maintenance levy all the more critical. The previous $1.5 million maintenance levy passed by voters in 2010 was for three fiscal years that ended June 30, 2013 leaving the schools without monies for general expenses and maintenance the past two years.

Unfortunately, the Levy Committee and most of the Board of Education aren’t too keen on putting another excess or maintenance levy on the ballot. During a work session meeting last Monday night, those in attendance flat out said another maintenance levy would not pass.

Excess levies are additional property taxes that school systems ask county voters to pass for much needed revenue. The 2010 to 2013 excess levy provided the school system with $1.5 million annually. The cost per property owner was $4.31 cents for every $100 of assessed property value. For example, for a home valued at $100,000, the levy rate represented an increase of only $43.10 per year.

No question, any request for help from Preston County’s taxpayers is a giant challenge. If history shows us anything, this county rarely supports a school bond or county-wide service or infrastructure tax. Yet here we are facing a monumental cut to an already strapped school system budget.

The Preston County News & Journal encourages everyone to consider investing in the future of our children by supporting an excess levy. A quality education is the key to a better future and economic growth in our county. Don’t we want to give our children and grandchildren an opportunity for a better life? Nobody else is going to foot the bill. The state budget is likely to face more cuts next year and in future years. We must find a way to invest in the education of Preston County’s youth.