School Systems Spend Savings

CHARLESTON – The Wayne County Board of Education is facing financial challenges that could lead to a state takeover of operations, but officials with the state Department of Education said Wednesday the district’s situation is unique.

A report Wednesday stated 31 counties in the state were “on the brink” of having deficits, with Wayne County presenting the largest issue. However, Liza Cordeiro, executive director of communications for the Department of Education, said no other districts are facing such serious issues.

With the financial situation deteriorating in the district, state Schools Superintendent James Phares told members of the Wayne County Board of Education the state would offer any assistance it could to correct the district’s problems. If they are not addressed, the district could be taken over by the state board.

Cordeiro said Phares’ comments about additional counties referred to the diminishing cash carryover in a number of districts, which, while a concern, is not immediately threatening.

“All that really means is last year we took a snapshot and they had a certain amount, and the next year at the same time they had a lesser amount,” she said. “It is not as if 31 counties are going into debt.”

In the Northern Panhandle, four of the six counties saw diminished carryovers from June 30, 2011, to June 30, 2012:

– Ohio County – $3.7 million to $2.9 million

– Marshall County – $11.9 million to $9 million

– Wetzel County – $4.1 million to $3.9 million

– Tyler County – $2.5 million to $1.5 million

Brooke and Hancock counties saw increases during that same time, with Brooke’s carryover jumping from $6.7 million to $7.1 million and Hancock’s increasing from $1.4 million to $2.2 million.

Cordeiro said a number of factors could cause smaller returns, including personnel numbers compared to the state formula, facility issues and declines in enrollment.

Cordeiro added that in Wayne County, the problems go beyond diminishing funds in the coffers, which is why Phares and the state offered to provide assistance.

A leadership team from Marshall University will work with the district, and Cordeiro said that team will look at a number of potential causes and factors.

“They’ll look at the transparency of the board, student achievement levels, the number of personnel over the funding formula and other things,” she said. “This is a positive thing, because they want to reverse those issues before it gets to a level” where the Department of Education has to take over.