(10/17/2014)
By Bob Weaver

The recent revelation that the Calhoun school system has a $1.8 million dollar deficit seemed to be a surprise.

Weeks before county voters are being asked to vote for a levy on the Nov. 4 ballot that would help fund school services, the deficit has raised questions regarding financial management.

Earlier, the deficit issue was downplayed, and according to current Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Tim Woodward, even school board members were in the dark regarding the severity of the problem.

Woodward went so far as to question why the state school system allowed deficits to be approved.

That question could be answered by the announcement of the WV School Board's recent initiative to remove financial operations from the 55 county school systems.

READ STATE PROPOSING TO TAKE-OVER COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEMS FINANCES- Would Affect 55 Counties

Calhoun County is among less than a dozen state systems that does not have an operational levy, and not unlike a number of rural county systems whose school enrollment has dropped below 1,400, is suffering from decreased state funding based on enrollment.

An earlier state initiative that would have kept the rural funding at at a 1,400 enrollment, was later reinterpreted, leaving some counties behind.

Calhoun Board of Education members answered questions from the Hur Herald regarding whether or not they understood the serious nature of a growing deficit over the past few years.

They were also asked why voters should support the Nov. 4 levy that would help maintain the current level of services to keep the school system operational.

CYNTHIA DALE

Q. Were Calhoun County Board Members kept in the dark about the magnitude of the 1.8 million dollar deficit?

Dale: Through presentation and discussion held by the Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Daniel Minney, on the budget report of 2013-2014 it was known that the deficit projection would be a large figure. Therefore, I cannot say that I was left in the dark on the $1.8 million dollar deficit.

Several years ago, there did seem to be a problem with promptness and accuracy of financial information to board members. We even went for a short period of time with no Financial Officer prior to Mr. Minney's arrival.

If financial problems are overlooked, a snowballing effect will occur. Well, the latter is where we currently are in our financial status. A local board of education is only as good as the management that provides them the information in order to make sound decisions.

Just know that your local board members are doing everything they can do to work with management to remedy the deficit. We have offered to work for free and were told that that option was illegal.

We do have a very competent Chief Financial Officer in Mr. Daniel Minney and a very proactive and positive superintendent with Mr. Tim Woodward.

What purpose does it do to look back. We must utilize our energy to strive for positive solutions.

Q. Why should one vote for the Excess Levy?

Dale: I am an advocate for the Levy because I am for anything that ensures a quality education to all students.

We need to make sure that our facilities are maintained in a sanitary and clean manner for our students. Maintaining our facilities sets a positive allure for visitors, teachers and students.

Students must continue to be exposed to the most up to date technology equipment, software and various technological avenues of instruction.

Students must be afforded an activity bus and transportation to various field trips that will broaden their knowledge of various locations and subjects.

Overall, we cannot lose anything that will strengthen and broaden student knowledge.

LARRY HARRIS

Q. Do you feel Calhoun school board members have been left in the dark regarding the severity of the current $1.8 million dollar deficit?

Harris: The board was not made aware of critical information regarding our financial situation. The board acted in good faith and presumed the information made available was accurate and complete. Board member's authority is limited to specific agenda items outlined in our monthly meetings.

Q. Why should one vote for the Levy?

Harris: I have complete confidence in our current superintendent and financial director. I feel quite fortunate to have them working for our schools and both have my full support. Steve Whited and board members are working diligently to resolve our financial deficit. Should county voters decide to contribute by supporting the levy, the process of restoring a balanced budget will be greatly enhanced.

JACKIE COLLINS-FRAIL

Q. Were Calhoun County Board Members kept in the dark about the magnitude of the 1.8 million dollar deficit? Frail: My term started July 1, 2014 and therefore, I am not qualified to address the question.

Q. Why should one vote for the Levy?

Frail: I personally support the levy. Calhoun County is one of a low number of counties in WV that does not have an excess school levy. A strong educational system provides community benefits; it builds good citizens.

Athletics and extra curricular activities positively impact students throughout their lives. I also believe that the state funding formula is flawed and would advocate for revision of the funding formula.

STEVE WHITED

Q. Were Calhoun County Board Members kept in the dark about the magnitude of the 1.8 million dollar deficit?

See SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT WHITED RESPONDS TO $1.8 MILLION DEFICIT - "We Will Not Make Excuses, We Will Move Forward"

Q. Why should one vote for the Levy?

Whited: The levy will allow our student's access to many opportunities that without the levy will not be possible. Preserving the extracurricular activities, student class electives and restoring activity buses for after school programs would be a priority.

The increased ability to maintain and recruit highly qualified teachers is extremely important in curriculum and instruction. If we are not able to restore supplements for teachers, this will become an issue.

By being able to provide supplements to staff, coaches, teachers, and directors, we would be able to be comparable to surrounding counties, thus being able to retain staff. The excess levy will provide the additional funds needed to hire enough educators and support personnel to meet the needs of the students.

This includes paying custodial staff to care for schools when they close for the summer and to prepare them to open each August as well as paying for additional teachers for overflow classes. The levy would also provide funding for administrative positions that are required by law but aren't funded by the state.

The excess levy will assist the BOE in being able to upgrade existing equipment and purchase new equipment to improve quality and efficiency. This should include technology equipment for instruction, school safety and necessary communications.

We are very fortunate to currently have a very impressive technology base in our classrooms, but if we are not able to maintain this high level of technology, we would quickly fall behind in providing opportunities for our students to continue learn in a modern atmosphere.

We are extremely proud of our facilities and the excess levy would assists in the ongoing maintenance and repair of all buildings.

Revenue from an excess levy would stay in the Calhoun County and be used to fill budgetary needs. Excess levies are the rare type of taxes that directly impact ones county in the fact they stay local and 100% of the funds are devoted to the system. No fees go to the State.

Not only the future of the school systems depends on the passage of the levy, in my wind, the entire economics of the community surrounds the school system. I believe that Calhoun County voters are concerned about the education of their students, the first step in assuring we are able to continue well-rounded programs is passage of the excess levy.

JENNA JETT

Did not respond.

CALHOUN SCHOOL DEFICIT ZOOMS TO $1.8 MILLION DOLLARS - School Board Members In Dark?

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


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