BOE Announces Possible Cut From State Department

The Ohio County Board of Education learned of a possible mid-year budget reduction for fiscal 2013 from the West Virginia Department of Education during a special Friday meeting.

According to board President James Jorden, the board received notification of the possible cuts Friday morning.

“Nothing is definite yet. Joe Panetta from the West Virginia Department of Education has placed all school systems in West Virginia on notice about a possible mid-year reduction for fiscal year 2013 and possible budget reductions for fiscal year 2014,” Superintendent Dianna Vargo said. “His recommendation at this time is to proceed cautiously in large expenditures or commitments for the current year. In fiscal year 2014, there also may be cuts in the federal program funding.”

Assistant State Superintendent Joe Panetta said the state department already had to reduce its appropriation request by 7.5 percent for 2014, but with an anticipated $200 million hole in the state budget there might be further reductions.

“State aid is exempted from the reduction at this point, but it’s not certain it will remain exempted,” Panetta said. “At this point it is not absolutely known. The Legislature passes the budget bill. If there is a reduction of the funds distributed to the county boards, then the county will have to take that into consideration. My notice was cautionary to tell counties to not spend discretionary expenditures at this point until we know exactly what’s going to happen.”

Steven Bieniek, business manager and treasurer for Ohio County Schools, said Ohio County has not yet received enough information from the state department to determine how the possible cuts would affect the district’s budget.

“Until we receive further notice, they are just asking us to proceed cautiously with spending,” Vargo said. “Legislature will convene in February for their discussion, and Congress will have discussions in January 2013.”

Meanwhile, board members also presented their annual goals, which according to Vargo gives members an opportunity to provide additional recommendations and suggestions for the school system that align with the county and superintendent goals.

Board member Gary Kestner mentioned pay raises for teachers and service personnel as one of his goals, but acknowledged the idea “might have a little trouble” coming to fruition considering the possible budget reduction from the state.

Jorden said “to be fiscally responsible toward our taxpayers” he recommends not using county funds for raises this fiscal year. Jorden said in order to cover a hypothetical $100 a month increase for every employee would cost $900,000.

“Even if we raised our operating levy to a 100 percent maximum, which I am not proposing, we would only see an increase of gross revenue of $400,000 – not even half of what we need to cover the costs of such raises,” Jorden said. “We mentioned in our last meeting that we received a carryover of approximately $865,000. We need to resupply our general current expense fund and our permanent improvement fund. To be fiscally responsible, I don’t see any possibility that (the raises) are going to happen this fiscal year. Budgets are tight. They are tight across the entire state.”

The Ohio County Board of Education will hold its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Oct.8 at Wheeling Middle School.