School system reports deficit

The Randolph County Board of Education is reporting a deficit – for the first time since 1994 – in its financial statement for the 2012 to 2013 school year.

Board members gathered in a special meeting Thursday to discuss the deficit, totaling more than $900,000.

“We have been working to make the corrections that are necessary to fix this deficit since March,” Terry George, the superintendent of Randolph County schools, said. “We have been vigilant and will take corrective actions to fix the deficit.”

Brad Smith, the school system’s finance director, said the statement will be published in Monday’s edition of The Inter-Mountain.

“We did finish the year in a deficit position of $925,189,” Smith said.

Several factors contributed to the deficit, he said.

“The bottom line is, we are still being affected by the (Other Post-Employment Benefits) liability,” Smith said. “We carry $1,520,377 in OPEB liability.”

Smith said there were several things that helped contribute to the deficit.

“We experienced issues with the Superstorm (Sandy) where we lost a lot of revenue in our child nutrition,” Smith said. “We had some spoilage of food and we had a few things that negatively impacted us this year.”

Officials worked in the spring to correct some of the negative impacts, he said.

“We have been discussing with the West Virginia Department of Education things they see we can do to correct the deficit as quick as possible,” Smith said. “We did a reduction in force this year of 15 employees, who were reduced through attrition and the combining of positions.”

George said he picked Smith’s brain to learn what contributed to the deficit.

“Small counties like Randolph are going to experience deficits on occasion simply because of the student population we have, and the number of schools we operate,” George said. “We run into a deficit when we have years that we experience losses due to weather such as Superstorm Sandy.

“Our child nutrition program loses income that we estimated and we also had larger than budgeted expenditures for substitute teachers.”

George said the board currently employs 7.8 teachers above the state aid formula.

“In the last four years, Randolph County has experienced a loss of approximately 178 students over the period,” George said. “As a result of that, we have absorbed the cost of offering the required academic programs that the state requires.”

The completion of School Building Authority projects also contributed to the deficit, George said.

“When you are involved in major SBA projects, sometimes you have to allocate county resources aside from the award to complete things that are unrelated to the projects,” he said. “Our Medicaid revenues have decreased and our (Public Employees Insurance Agency) expenses have increased by almost $200,000.”

George said those factors alone created a huge chunk of the deficit.

“We are very lucky to have the (West Virginia Department of Education) working with us,” George said. “In small counties, these things just happen occasionally. We have initiated a plan to turn this around.”

Also during Thursday’s meeting, board members approved a drop-out prevention grant application to be filed with the WVDE. The grant would provide $100,000 funding for three years.

“It is designed to help freshman students who are struggling in math or English 9,” Donna Simmons, director of special education, said. “Students can check out a laptop to work on the Odyssey program and can take a test in the summer to earn recovery credits. It gives us an extra teacher to be able to start those students over again.”

Simmons said a freshman orientation component is also built into the program to help them feel welcome.

The next regular meeting of the Randolph County Board of Education is slated for 6 p.m. Oct. 7 at the board office.