BOE rejects state’s financial directives

By Terry Bartley - Civitas Media

FOSTER, W.Va. — The Boone County Board of Education voted unanimously not to accept financial directives sent from the State Board of Education in a special session held on June 30. The directives involved greatly lowering the pay and cutting benefits for employees of Boone County Schools, among reducing the budget in almost every other area.

The Executive Director of Communications with the West Virginia Department of Education, Kristen Anderson, said these cuts have to happen.

“We really were left with absolutely no other option, this is really an unprecedented financial situation in Boone County. We have not seen any other financial situation like what Boone County is facing,” Anderson said, “They had to be as severe as they were to find a sufficient budget, that was how big the hole was.”

Anderson said the budget submitted by the Boone County Board of Education did not have sufficient funds to function throughout the school year. The State estimates the county would run out of money by April 2017. She said the State has been communicating with the County to determine a solution.

“We’ve worked with the county extensively through the month of June to identify other revenue streams as a way to find a sufficient budget and unfortunately the last resort were the directives the State Superintendent submitted.”

Boone County Schools has until July 8th to approve a revised budget that will cover all expenses. It doesn’t have to be the plan suggested by the State, but Anderson said she doesn’t know what else the County could do.

“The department is open to other options if Boone County were to come up with something else, but we have reviewed this extensively and I’m not aware of any other revenue streams that could balance the budget,” Anderson said.

The budget submitted by Boone County schools would grow their deficit over the next year to $1.7 million, resulting in a net deficit of $7.3 million at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Michael Martirano, the State Superintendent of Schools, said he would like to help Boone County Schools, but does not how where the money would come from.

“While I sympathize with what appears to be a popular belief that the State should provide additional financial resources to the Boone County Board of Education because of the significant contribution coal mining in Boone County has provided the state over the years,” Martirano said, “We are aware of no existing mechanism for the State to provide such financial relief or assume the debt of a local county board of education.”

Martirano said that he understands these cuts are extreme, but he sees no other way for Boone County Schools to function. He said failure to comply could result in the State withholding aid or a potential intervention by the State.

“I recognize that the actions I am requiring likely will have a severe financial impact on the employees and retirees of the Boone County Board of Education,” Matirano said, “I also recognize that if I approve the budget submitted by the Boone County Board of Education in its current form the county will not have the cash flow necessary to pay employees beginning in the spring of 2017.”

The Boone County Board of Education met yesterday and likely voted on a budget plan. Watch for updated coverage.

Update: During a special meeting of the Boone County Board of Education on Thursday, July 7, the Board of Education, once again, unanimously voted against the state directives to reduce their budget with a 5-0 vote. The vote received a standing ovation from the over 150 Board of Education educators and service staff.

By Terry Bartley

Civitas Media

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