RESAs Eye Cost Saving Measures

WHEELING — West Virginia’s regional education service agencies are facing the loss of about $3.5 million in state funding annually, but the amount represents only a drop in a $50 million yearly budget bucket for the eight RESAs across the state, according to figures provided by the West Virginia Department of Education.

State Deputy Superintendent of Schools Cindy Daniel broke down the operating budget for the RESAs for state lawmakers recently as House Bill 2711 was debated before the House Education Committee.

The measure has since passed the House, and is among measures before the Senate as the Legislature enters the final week of regular session.

HB 2711, as written, would eliminate funding for the eight RESAs located in West Virginia — but not until July 1, 2018.

The RESAs and the county school districts they serve would have more than a year to form cooperatives and seek cost-reducing measures for services provided by the RESAs.

Four regional Superintendent’s Advisory Councils to coordinate county efforts would be established through the legislation.

In total, 459 employees work within the RESAs, according to information provided by the West Virginia Department of Education.

Daniel told the committee the $3.5 million the RESAs receive from the state equals only about 7 percent of its annual budget of about $50 million, and she said she was confident the extra year would give the RESAs time to find a way to continue to provide services.

In breaking down the $50 million budget, Daniel said the $3.5 million in state funding went toward paying the salaries and benefits for those that work at the eight RESA central offices, and maintaining their facilities.

Kristin Anderson, spokeswoman for the WVDEA, said the exact number of RESA employees paid through the state funding was not available.

The bulk of the budget, about $21 million, is federal funding coming to the RESAs through the WVDEA. The next $20 million, meanwhile, is listed as “generated and accrued revenue” collectively paid by county school districts in exchange for services, or by those paying tuition at RESA offices for adult education services. The money goes toward the salaries of 126 employees, according to the WVDEA data.

RESA 8 in the Eastern Panhandle receives a $4.9 million grant for its Head Start Program, and 116 employees are paid from this amount.

“It is premature to speculate on what funding will be available to RESAs should there be a transition period,” Anderson said. “Those details are being discussed throughout the next week. We will be able to provide a path forward once legislation is finalized.”

Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said he hasn’t yet had a chance to review Senate Bill 2711, which is before the Senate Education Committee as the last week of the regular session of the Legislature begins.

There are no members on the committee from the Northern Panhandle.

“We’ve discussed the bill in caucus, and the Education Committee members have discussed some concerns,” Ferns said. “They expressed some thoughts on making some changes to the RESAs, but I don’t have a sense of where the Education Committee stands on the RESAs.”

Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, said state lawmakers are aware the RESAs provide important training and resources to communities outside of public schools, such as firefighter and emergency personnel training.

“I do not think the RESAs will go away unless there is some sort of better alternative,” he said.

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