According to State Superintendent Dr. David Stewart, the latest budget projections for the end of this fiscal year show that only one county remains in a deficit.
“Just five years ago, 17 county school systems were experiencing budget deficits that were greatly impacting the delivery of services to students,” said Stewart.“That number has steadily declined since 1995 with only Hardy County now anticipating a deficit at June 30.”
Stewart indicated several reasons for the fiscal improvement across the state.
“The additional financial resources that the Legislature provided to counties through the budget digest have been critical in resolving the problems in these counties,” noted Stewart. “This year alone, more than $8.5 million has been appropriated for distribution to county school boards. Through the leadership of the Legislature, specifically the House and Senate Education Committees, this financial commitment has turned systems around so that they may begin the school year in the black,” Stewart indicated.
In addition to the financial resources provided by the Legislature, staff members from the West Virginia Department of Education have implemented an early intervention program to identify systems headed for financial difficulties. Members of the Office of School Finance visited counties and assisted them in preparing plans to resolve their deficit spending situations.
“In many cases, we have provided extensive technical assistance that addresses the entire business operation of their systems,” indicated Stewart.
“Another factor that has significantly impacted the financial improvement in these counties is the extraordinary cooperation of the local board and superintendent,” emphasized Stewart. “Their personal commitment to aggressively addressing their budget problems has made the difference.”
Stewart explained that many counties experience financial woes when their number of employees exceeds the public school support formula. “As enrollments decrease, counties must respond by reducing the number of employees,” Stewart urged. “If they do not cut personnel when enrollment declines, school systems begin to suffer the consequences.”
In 1998, four counties experienced deficits: Clay, Monroe, Ritchie and Upshur. Only Clay and Hardy had deficits at June 30, 1999, but Clay is anticipating the deficit will be resolved by the end of this year.
Hardy County projects a $150,000 deficit which is a decrease of $142,934 from the deficit incurred in 1999. The county has set aside money in its proposed budget for 2000-01 to satisfy the deficit.