(07/03/2014)
By Bob Weaver

The Calhoun Board of Education continued to make major cuts to the county school budget Monday night during an emergency meeting, trying to eliminate an $800,000 deficit and create a balanced budget.

During what was described as a difficult and contentious meeting, the board approved a measure that affected a number of system employees, a reduction of another $100,000 in costs solely associated with employee's who employment days are beyond 200 days annually.

Superintendent Tim Woodward said 33 employees are being affected. "Unfortunately, we're in a position where just about everything is on the table that does not impact student instruction," he said.

"We had hoped that the operations levy would have passed," Woodward continued.

The state's school funding formula does not reimburse the school system for any employment costs over 200 days.

Board president Steve Whited (left) said the cuts will affect the pay of principals, custodians, secretaries, directors, supervisors, and maintenance personnel.

The additional budget changes, according to Whited, were made in a letter received from the West Virginia Department of Education.

"However hard and disappointing this mandate is to take, we kid ourselves if we think the financial problems will just go away," Whited said.

"I certainly am disappointed that employees are being affected, and regardless of many words spoken in anger, I do care deeply for then all," Whited added.

Monday's action was the latest in a series of cost-cutting measures, with another nearly $300,000 reduction involving changes and reductions in a Reduction in Force (RIF) submission, and another $100,000 with the removal of the $600 supplement supplement which both teachers and service personnel have received for many years.

Calhoun voters narrowly defeated a school operating levy, leaving the board to make critical financial decisions.

The system's money crunch is directly related to student enrollment continuing to decline, which affects state aid formula reimbursements to the county, yet does not change minimum staffing requirements.

While the state has indicated that county school systems must operate with a 1,400 enrollment number with formula funding, Calhoun's enrollment is around 1,180.

Whited said he was disappointed with the state's latest mandate (See State Letter Below).

"We believe that the WVDE should see the vast improvement and dedicated work on the finance issues that have taken place over the past several months, and more especially this past month, and it is frustrating that we pour ourselves into this, only to be mandated to do something," he said.

"We will continue to work towards solutions, as well as looking at future operating levy elections," Whited concluded.

ADDITIONAL STORY TO FOLLOW: INTERVIEW WITH SUPERINTENDENT WOODWARD

SEE LETTER RECEIVED BY CALHOUN SCHOOLS West Virginia Department of Education


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