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WV school systems facing $11M budget cut

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s latest mid-year budget cut means Kanawha County’s public school system is slated to lose roughly $1.1 million.

That’s according to the West Virginia Department of Education’s response to the state Budget Office regarding how it would disburse Tomblin’s $11.1 million ordered cut among the 55 county public school systems.

Education department spokeswoman Kristin Anderson said the state Department of Revenue gave her department instructions on how the cuts must be divvied among the counties, but Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss must still sign off on the education department’s proposal.

Anderson said the education department -- to comply with a separate cut to state agencies that Tomblin also ordered -- is proposing cutting $1.7 million from a budget line item for counties dealing with increased enrollment. She said these growth counties have already been allocated the money they were owed from the line item, and the remaining $1.7 million would have had to be returned to the state anyway.

The state aid funding formula is largely based on enrollment. Kanawha, the state’s most-populous school system, is planned to receive the largest cut at $1.1 million, while the state’s second-largest system, Berkeley County, will see the second-largest cut, at $746,000.

The following counties also have proposed cuts of more than $300,000: Wood, which will be losing $517,000; Cabell, losing $507,000; Raleigh, $486,000; Monongalia, $453,000; Harrison, $427,000; Putnam, $379,000; Mercer, $366,000; Jefferson, $356,000; and Marion, 319,000.

The statewide mid-year state aid cut last fiscal year was $11.5 million. That mid-year cut was previously expected to be $16 million.

Fiscal years run July 1 through June 30, so they enclose a single school year.

Before the most recent mid-year cut, Kanawha already had seen a $2.3 million drop in revenue from last fiscal year to this one, contributing to the local school board deciding to shed about 90 positions and cut by about $1 million the substitute teacher budget. The school system’s general budget at the start of this fiscal year was $233.8 million.

Lisa Wilcox, the Kanawha schools treasurer, said a majority of that substitute budget cut was actually offset, as hoped, by carryover funds from last fiscal year.

But she said that in response to the new state aid cut, the school system is looking at slicing $369,000 from the substitute budget and making cuts to other line items. She said right now it looks like the total $1.1 million cut to her school system won’t have a significant impact.

“I was hopeful that it wouldn’t happen,” Wilcox said of the mid-year cut. “But I wasn’t completely caught off guard that it did.”

She said the proposed substitute budget cut number is flexible, and said Kanawha schools Superintendent Ron Duerring will speak to school principals about how much they can handle in reductions to that area. Wilcox said the local school board will vote on recommended budget adjustments later this month.

This fiscal year’s budget reduced repair and maintenance dollars by $300,000 compared to last fiscal year, though Duerring said such a cut would never reduce work on air conditioning systems. On the fifth day of this school year, he closed seven schools, including four of the county’s eight public high schools, because of AC and power failures, meaning about one in 10 Kanawha public schools were closed that day.

Kanawha’s decrease equals about 10 percent of the statewide $11.1 million cut to state school aid, which is West Virginia K-12 schools’ largest funding source.

The statewide cut, which Tomblin announced earlier this month, is itself about 1 percent of the $1.1 billion in state aid provided through the formula this fiscal year, according to Office of School Finance Executive Director Amy Willard.

Tomblin said the mid-year cuts are needed to help make up for an $87 million shortfall in the state’s general revenue fund. According to numbers his office provided earlier this month, mid-year personal income tax collections are down $29.8 million, consumer sales taxes by $35.2 million, corporate net income taxes by $14.2 million and severance taxes by $13.5 million.

Wilcox said it seems the treasurers of all Mountain State school systems understood another mid-year state aid cut was a possibility.

“What they’re going to be able to do about it is going to depend on the resources they have available,” she said, noting some counties are rich with natural gas revenue while others are struggling with the coal downturn.

The state Board of Education heard a report from Willard earlier this month on the financial status of state education.

Audited financial statements from the 2014-15 fiscal year show that Calhoun was alone among the state’s 55 county school systems in ending that fiscal year in a deficit. There were four that ended in the red the fiscal year before that, six that ended in the red the year before that and nine that ended in the red the year before that.

But still-unaudited financial statements indicate five school systems ended last fiscal year in a deficit.

Calhoun, which had a $1.7 million deficit, is proposed to lose $51,000 through the mid-year cut; Boone, which had a $2.7 million deficit, is losing $171,000; Grant, which had a $54,000 deficit, is losing $76,000; Greenbrier, which had a $474,000 deficit, is losing $212,000; and Upshur, which had a $537,000 deficit, is losing $160,000.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazettemail.com, facebook.com/ryanedwinquinn, 304-348-1254 or follow @RyanEQuinn on Twitter.

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