2017-05-03 / Front Page

School board considers budget, RESA options

by Kate Evans

The Morgan County School Board considered their upcoming budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year at a budget work session during their April 25 regular meeting.

The school system’s proposed total $27.46 million budget includes an estimated $23,087,333 general current expense fund and a $4,372,767 special revenue fund. The total budget is some $705,844 less than Fiscal Year 2016. The total budget is actually $25,159,630 without the paper-only unfunded retirement liability that schools must carry as a budget line item, said School Treasurer Ann Bell.

The 2018 Fiscal Year budget will be finalized at the 7 p.m. Monday, May 8 school board meeting and is set to be approved for publication that evening. After its approval, the budget will be published in The Morgan Messenger for two consecutive weeks.

Budget public hearing

A public hearing on the budget will be held at the school board’s Thursday, May 25 meeting. The budget will be adopted later in the May 25 meeting. Schools are required to present a balanced budget to the state by May 30.

Bell said at the budget work session that state aid would be reduced around $500,000 for the coming fiscal year due to decreased student enrollment. Projected state aid to the school district could still change depending on state Legislature action.

The school board abolished seven full-time professional personnel positions and five service personnel positions at the end of the 2016-2017 employment term and cut four to six days from the employment contracts of 54 professional and service personnel beginning July 1 due to the expected decrease in state aid.

Student enrollment

Workshop enrollment data showed Morgan County Schools has a current headcount of 2,323 students enrolled, down from the previous year enrollment of 2,404 students. Enrollment declined at every county school last year except for Warm Springs Middle School, where enrollment increased by 15 students.

County enrollment charts have showed a downward trend since a peak of 2,719 students during the 2007-2008 school year. State aid is based on student enrollment.

Salaries

Morgan County starting salaries for teachers ranked 14th in the state, said Assistant Superintendent Kristen Tuttle at the budget workshop. The starting salary for a Morgan County teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience is $34,831 with the county supplement added. The starting salary for a service employee with no experience is $19,630 with the county supplement.

Tuttle said county salaries were decent compared to other counties across the state but several surrounding counties were paying more. Superintendent David Banks said that the county has always had issues competing with teacher salaries in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Recruiting and retaining personnel is an ongoing issue.

Cost per pupil

The schools with the highest cost per pupil were Paw Paw Elementary ($12,238), Paw Paw High School ($11,845) and Greenwood Elementary ($11,683) for Fiscal Year 2016. Banks said the schools were at the top for cost per pupil since they had the fewest students. Greenwood Elementary was closed in June, 2016.

Facilities

Banks presented an extensive prioritized facilities needs list compiled by Maintenance Director Joyce White and Maintenance Supervisor George Miller for all school buildings. High priorities included roof repairs and replacements, rooftop HVAC units, water tank and water heater replacements, replacing cracked floor tiles, repairing water damage, lighting and a lift for county vehicle repair.

Banks said some issues would be addressed in the high school Building C & D project and as CMTA energy savings projects. Middle school rooftop HVAC units will be a NEEDS project.

RESA discussion

School board president David Ambrose reported on the phone conference he took part in with the 55 counties and State School Board Association executive director Howard O’Cull that mainly discussed the elimination of RESA districts statewide from House Bill 2711 and county options for forming cooperatives.

Ambrose said that some counties rely heavily on their RESA for support while others do not. Each RESA district is different-RESA 8 does well here, he said. RESA 8 programs and support include Head Start/Prekindergarten/ Early Head Start, WV Birth to Three, adolescent health, adult education, staff development, technology support and public service and bus operator training.

Some counties talked about forming cooperatives for grant writing or even forming something similar to a RESA with one to three employees. There is also the option of continuing RESAs until June 2018 as well as a pathway to developing a 501c3 agency. RESA services could also be pared back to extend them into the future.

“It’s a big decision for all,” Ambrose said.

The RESA 8 Council of county superintendents and school board members will meet in May to further discuss their options.

School board dues

The school board approved a $2,164 payment for their West Virginia School Board Association membership dues for Fiscal Year 18 at the meeting. Ambrose felt the training, the networking with other school board members and learning what worked and what didn’t work that they received from their membership is invaluable.

School board member Laura Smith said it was worth it just for Howard O’Cull’s expertise and hard work. Board member John Rowland said it was an investment that they needed to continue.

Financial audit

School Treasurer Ann Bell reported that there were no findings with the school board’s audit report of the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 by the FYFFE Jones Group, AC of Huntington, an independent auditor. There were also no findings in their special education audit. Bell expressed pride in the audit results and said that everyone was very diligent in their reporting and very conscious of their spending.

“It was a team effort,” she said.

Step 7 money

The school board also approved $126,751 of the Step 7 monies-25% of the maximum possible-to be used for the employment of personnel. Some $70,226 will fund the county technology systems specialist position and $56,525 will be spent on a fulltime nurse for Warm Springs Intermediate School.

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