RESA directors defend services amid talks of budget cuts

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RESA directors defend services amid talks of budget cuts
By Sunshine Wiles, WV MetroNews

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Directors of West Virginia’s eight Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs) are prepared to argue before lawmakers that the services provided to school districts save money.

Kelli Watts, the Executive Director of RESA 3, a guest on MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval, said the professional development services they coordinate are imperative.

“We provided 34,983 teachers and principals professional development in specific areas of request and of need based,” Watts tallied from last year alone.

Watts, whose district covers Boone, Clay, Kanawha and Putnam Counties, explained that working with districts regionally keeps administrators from having to outsource services at sometimes a higher cost.

“We are able to provide this service at no cost to the county. We work very closely with our superintendents and county administrators in designing this need. So, as budgets get tighter, I think the need for us gets stronger.”

State Legislative Auditor John Sylvia, in a January 9 report to state lawmakers, recommended each RESA be eliminated.

RESA 7, which includes Barbour, Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Randolph, Taylor, Tucker and Upshur Counties, is lead by Executive Director Kathy Hypes.

She explained school districts in her region experience cost savings by taking advantage of the agency’s coordination of technical assistance and manpower.

“It’s $10.00 whether it takes them one day or three days where if the counties were paying for a service from a profit agency, they would be paying, on average, $60.00 per hour.”

Sylvia suggested eliminating 16 RESA positions, eight executive directors and eight financial officers, would save the state $1.5 million dollars a year according to a performance audit.

“We currently receive $3.5 million from the state and our total budget collectively for all eight RESAs is just a little over $51 million,” Hypes said.

The additional $48 million that makes up the annual budget comes from grant funds, the women said.

Hypes and Watts further suggested state organizations, aside from the school districts, might also benefit from ordering and purchasing services RESAs provide to the school systems.

“We can secure the best bids for a variety of products that our school systems need. This year alone we sold $16.4 million with a savings of $4.1 million for our school systems,” said Watts.

Hypes asked hypothetically, “If all state agencies could use our cooperative purchasing through a national organization, how much money could we save the state?”

Lawmakers who received the legislative audit were also presented with 12 pages of rebuttal by RESA directors trying to hang on to state funding.