BOE; Budget crunch gets tighter

By John Conley - [email protected]

The budget crunch just gets tighter for the Wyoming County Board of Education.

Assessor Michael E. Cook gave the board a report on tax revenue at Monday’s meeting.

He said he did not like to present bad news.

“I take this job personallyl, and I take our kids personally,” he stated.

Assessed values on personal and real property are down by nearly $58 million from 2016, and that translates to $1,398,586 fewer tax dollars.

The board’s portion of that is $1,020,968.

Cook presented the board with charts on gas and oil appraised values, coal reserves assessed value, coal production and other data.

But he said he could see a positive trend in increased coal production.

“I think we can weather the storm if we can get through this year,” he explained.

Dewey Houck of RAIL asked if there was way to find out much coal is underground.

Cook responded that the information is in Charleston.

Superintendent of Schools Deirdre Cline thanked Cook and his staff for their work.

“If any people in the world can weather the storm, it’s Wyoming County,” she said.

The board also heard a report from Business Manager Kim Cook.

She told the BOE that the main component of the School Aid Formula is enrollment.

When enrollment declines, so does funding.

Enrollment in county schools is down 83 from last year.

She submitted information comparing this year’s enrollment data to last year. Wyoming County, she noted, is reimbursed as a low density county (based on the number of students per square mile).

A low density county has five to less than 10 students per square mile.

Cook reviewed funding for professional personnel, service personnel, fixed costs, transportation and other factors.

“Since the local share (of funding) is going down, the state is going to have to pick that up,” she stated.

Board President Michael Prichard asked if the school system would be in the red.

“I don’t think (it will) this year,” Cook replied.

Since the school system funds more positions than the state aid formula pays for, she pointed out, “we’ve got to look at positions.”

Cline observed that the goal is not to impact what happens in the classroom.

“We’re going to have to have to make some reductions in expenses to stay out of the red,” Cook commented.

Cline stressed that reduction in positions is not the same as reductions in personnel.

Retirements and other factors are involved in reducing via attrition.

Cline also said the that the board would deal with employees “transparently, lawfully, compassionately.”

She noted that “no dollar amount is too small” as employees continue to look for way to cut expenses.

John Conley can be reached at 304-732-6060 or on Twitter @PIHnews.

By John Conley

[email protected]

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