(10/10/2014)
By Bob Weaver

Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Tim Woodward dropped a bombshell this week on Calhoun parents, taxpayers and likely the school system itself.

Calhoun Schools have a $1.8 million deficit.

The new deficit announcement came less than four weeks before a Nov. 4 election when county taxpayers are being asked to approve a 5-year operating levy that would raise $3.5 million to support operations.

The levy money cannot be directly applied to the $1.8 deficit.

At question is why has the school system not proactively provided information to Calhoun parents and taxpayers about the severe deficit problem, a problem that apparently has been building for several years.

It appears that even school board members were likely kept in the dark regarding the severity of the deficit, according to Superintendent Tim Woodward, indicating they received inaccurate information.

A reported $800,000 deficit was downplayed earlier this year, although school administrators and board members have been clear about the financial crisis facing the county school system.

Now the deficit has increased by one million dollars.

A number of county systems were reported to have budget shortfalls in 2013, including Braxton, Calhoun, Mason, Monroe and Preston.

The deficits in each county were greater than 3 percent of the revenue the school system can expect from its voter-approved property tax, or have been a recurring theme in the county, state officials said.

State Board member Lloyd Jackson said budget problems could swiftly lead to larger problems in a county. To remedy budget issues is to avoid a state of disarray that requires intervention from the state Department of Education.

Gus Penix, director of the Office of Education Performance Audits, said many of West Virginia's rural counties have seen declines in enrollment, resulting in less funding from the state.

Superintendent Woodward, in an interview with The Calhoun Chronicle, acknowledged that the $1.8 deficit announcement would create a lot of anger.

The un-audited financial statement was released this week was the first published by the Calhoun school system since 2011.

Woodward, in the Chronicle interview, indicated a lack of communication regarding predicting the enrollment decline had been a problem.

The decline trend has been published annually on the Hur Herald for at least 15 years.

Woodward questioned why the state continued to approve deficit budgets for the county, while also admitting local school officials were in a period of denial. He declined to place specific blame for the escalating problem.

In September, the West Virginia Board of Education announced it is looking at major reform for the state's school systems, which would change the way county school systems operate, including their finances.

They are examining ways to restructure the state's 55-district school system by putting school money management and bookkeeping responsibilities in the hands of an outside entity, likely RESA, saying it would allow local administrators to focus more on student achievement.

Read Woodward's entire interview in the Calhoun Chronicle.

See ED-WATCH: WV SCHOOL BOARD PROPOSING MAJOR CHANGES OVER COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEMS FINANCIAL OPERATIONS

CALHOUN SCHOOLS OPERATING LEVY RETURNS TO NOV. 4 BALLOT - Levy Amount Increased $75,000 Annually, System Facing Financial Crunch

CALHOUN SCHOOL BOARD ISSUES FINANCIAL REPORT


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