BOE reviews budget, feels strain

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer
 
At Monday night’s Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting, the board reviewed its budget and noticed a decline in funds.

As treasurer Sherry Radcliff explained the budget specifics, Superintendent Terrence Beam asked why the General Current Expense fund was in the negative by so much this year. The fund had an ending balance in the red of $195,553.

Beam asked Radcliff how it compared to the ending balance of the 2015 budget. Radcliff said the General Current Expense fund was in the positive by approximately $90,000 last year.

“What has caused us to go that far south that quickly?” Beam asked. “Is there anything you can put your finger on?”

Radcliff explained that the board has received less funding from federal and state entities, including the heavily relied on Secure Rural School funding, better known as the forestry money. 

“We need our national forestry money that we’ve got budgeted,” Radcliff said. “We don’t know if we’re going to get it. That’s a biggie. We were fortunate to get it this year. Other receivables – we haven’t gotten our FCC money this year and that’s about ninety-some thousand dollars. Last year, we got our FCC money in July. Here we are, almost October first, and we don’t have it, yet. We do know we will get it.”

Radcliff added the board also receives Payment in Lieu of Taxes for mineral rights, but it is not in the budget, yet.

Along with waiting for promised funding, the board has to face an increase in payouts, according to Radcliff.

“Our vendors are now saying, ‘we have not raised your bills for the last two, four, six years; we’re going to have to increase your expenses,’” she said. “I’m hearing that now from two or three vendors. We know that expenses are going to raise.” 

Radcliff said there are a lot of “ifs” when it comes to funding in the budget, but she said there is enough money in other funds to get through.

“We have a little bit to work with, but not much,” she said. “It’s a lot of ‘ifs.’” 

The board approved the 2016 budget.

Board not unanimous on proposed levy

Superintendent Beam reported that the Pocahontas County chapter of AFT [American Federation of Teachers] will vote this week on whether it supports the proposed school levy.

Beam said the chapter asked him to get an idea of how board members feel about the levy. He gave each member an opportunity to voice their opinion on the levy which will raise nearly $6 million to renovate current schools and build a new school. The funds will match a $20 million grant from the West Virginia School Building Authority.

“I’m all in,” board member Joe Walker said. “We don’t have a better alternative at the given time. It may not be a perfect situation, but it’s by far the best one we can come up with. I’m for the levy.”

Board vice president Jessica Hefner agreed, stating, “I’m for the levy, ditto what Mr. Walker said.”

Board president Emery Grimes recalled taking the project to the SBA in Charleston, and reiterated that he is pro levy. 
“I’m all in,” he said. “I went to Charleston in front of the SBA with [Beam]. We presented our case. We might not have got exactly what we wanted, but we got very close. I don’t know what we’re going to do without it.”

Grimes said people need to realize the school buildings are in poor shape and this is an opportunity to change that.

“I think the general public needs to know this – Mr. Walker took [a general contractor] to the schools and looked at the schools, and told us how bad a shape they were in,” Grimes said. “I don’t believe, personally, we’re ever going to get another offer like this. I can’t predict twenty years down the road but we can’t wait twenty years. I don’t think we’re going to get this good a deal ever again.” 

Board member Becky Campbell agreed, and said this is the best chance because of the funding provided by the SBA.

“Is it a perfect situation? No,” she said. “Are there a lot of questions? Absolutely. But without this money, I don’t know where our kids are going to be or what shape our schools are going to be in in the foreseeable future. This kind of money doesn’t come around every day.

“I think while we have a chance, we have to grab it,” she continued. “That’s it in a nutshell. We may not see this kind of money in ten years. We might not see it in twenty. We may never see it again. This is our opportunity to actually get some help to do some good things for our schools and for our kids.”

Board member Steve Tritapoe admitted he was apprehensive about the levy and said, honestly, he still has a lot of questions. 

“I think I would fully support it right now if I knew all the details to it,” he said. “Partially, maybe, that’s still my fault for not knowing everything. But as of right now, I’m no different than any other average Joe out here on the street. Questions are starting to pile up, so I’m in the gray area still. I can’t jump in feet first right now until I can get some of my questions answered, which again, maybe that’s more my fault.”

Beam thanked the board for their honesty and said he would share the information with the AFT chapter.

In Updates:

• The levy committee public meetings are: Monday, October 3, Green Bank Senior Center; Tuesday, October 4, Linwood Public Library; Wednesday, October 5, Marlinton Municipal Building; Thursday, October 6, Hillsboro Fire Department; and November 1, Pocahontas County Opera House. All meetings will be at 6 p.m. The final meeting will include a presentation by WV SBA member David Sneed.

• Board member Becky Campbell announced that the Pocahontas County High School golf team is the Coalfield Conference champions and coach Cory McNabb was named Coalfield Conference Coach of the Year.

In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following: 

• Superintendent’s goals.

• For Stacy Landis, Julie Brown and Gregory Morgan to chaperone and transport 24 Green Bank Middle School students to The Mountain Institute on Spruce Knob October 19. All expenses to be paid for by Step VII funds.

• For Hillsboro Elementary School’s third, fourth and fifth grade students to travel by chartered bus to Washington, D.C., Tuesday, May 30, 2017 through Thursday, June 1, 2017. All expenses to be paid by fundraising or private funds.

• Pocahontas County High School schedule for the 2016-2017 school year in reference to the number of instructional minutes in State Policy 2510.

• To transport 35 to 40 high school students to Denmar Correctional Center Thursday, October 20, to participate in the Violent Offenders Counseling and Learning (V.O.C.A.L.) Program. All expenses to be paid by Pocahontas Cooperative Ministries. Board member Jessica Hefner voted against the item and board member Joe Walker abstained. It passed, 3-1-1.

• Rescind the following action taken at the regular board of education meeting held on Monday, July 25: On recommendation of the superintendent and motion by Tritapoe, seconded by Campbell, the board unanimously approved for Pocahontas County Board of Education to adopt Non-ERISA 403(b) Plan through Integra Financial, LLC.

• To place the following policies on 30-day comment: IKO – Simulated Workplace Drug-Free Policy and IKO-A – Simulated Workplace Parent Letter.

In personnel management, the board approved the following:

• Resignation of David E. Arter as custodian IV/sanitation plant operator at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to the end of the day on September 23.

• Employment of Lauren Brooke Dickenson as Project SPLASH math tutor/STEM instructor at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, retroactive to September 14, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, at $20 per hour, up to seven hours per week for up to 25 weeks, plus additional planning/meetings before program begins.

• Unpaid medical leave of absence of Samantha J. Feather, teacher of multi-subjects at Marlinton Elementary School, retroactive to September 19, or upon exhaustion of personal leave, for up to nine weeks.

• Consent to change Melissa Hill Doss, from counselor at Marlinton Middle School to counselor at Marlinton Middle School and Pocahontas County High School, effective October 3, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, not to exceed two days per week at Pocahontas County High School. Board member Tritapoe voted against the item. It passed, 4-1.

• Employment of Jennifer A. Nail as after-school tutor at Pocahontas County High School, retroactive to September 14, through June 1, at $20 per hour, two hours per day, two days per week, not to exceed 23 weeks. Position to be divided equally with Jeanette D. Wagner. 

• Employment of Lori A. Doolittle as truancy diversion specialist for Pocahontas County Schools, at state basic pay based on degree and experience, effective September 28, for the remainder of the 2016-2017 school year, term of employment is 163 days. Term of employment shall be 200 days each year thereafter.

• Resignation of Kaitlin Sharp as substitute aide for Pocahontas County Schools, retroactive to August 10.

The next Local School Improvement Council/Faculty Senate work session will be October 3, at 3 p.m., at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School.

The next regular board meeting will be Monday, October 10, at 6 p.m., at the board of education conference room.

Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at sastewart@pocahontastimes.com

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