Resident blasts Randolph County BOE over budget deficit

ELKINS – An Elkins resident questioned Randolph County Board of Education members Wednesday evening regarding a $900,000 budget deficit.

Bob Jones said he was speaking before the board as a taxpayer and a concerned resident during Wednesday’s meeting.

“I cannot believe that I am the only person in the county that is upset over the issue I am about to address tonight,” Jones said.

Jones said that four years ago, the board decided not to rehire then-Superintendent Sue Hinzman.

“It was my understanding at that time the board had close to a $1 million surplus in the county,” Jones said. “That is basically $2 million that has been spent over the past four years over and above what our taxes are given, what our levy monies come in and also grants. As a board, you were elected to serve and protect the interests of this county.”

Jones said he was upset with the BOE.

“To be honest, I am ashamed of you,” he said. “How could you let something like this happen? I, and the citizens of this county, deserve to know where that money went. The normal generic answers will not do. The taxpayers are entitled to see financial records to show where this money went.”

Jones asked the board to do their job to protect the citizens and keep them informed.

“I do expect to see something in writing that explains how we are so far in a deficit,” Jones said.

None of the board members replied to Jones’ comments.

Following the board meeting, Superintendent Terry George said he would address Jones’ concerns and send him information about the deficit.

In January, George said officials plan to aggressively reduce the budget deficit – which officials said was more than $925,000 – that was discovered in the September financial statement.

“We have continuously taken steps to address those issues,” George said. “We are preparing a mid-year financial report for the board that will outline what we have done to this point, and of course, further reductions to the debt will be addressed during the upcoming personnel season.”

News of the deficit was announced during a September board meeting. George said that small counties like Randolph are going to experience deficits on occasion simply because of the student population and the number of schools. He said the county runs into a deficit when experiencing losses due to weather events such as Superstorm Sandy, and when the child nutrition program loses estimated income because of the storm and school closures. He said that the system experienced larger than budgeted expenditures for substitute teachers and that the board currently employed 7.8 teachers above the state aid formula. Monies for teachers above the state aid formula comes from the general fund.

“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 in September.

“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.

  • Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Lynn Proudfoot, attendance director for the county, reported on the current year’s drop-out rate.

“These are students that withdrew the first semester of this school year,” Proudfoot said. “There are a total of 16 students.”

Proudfoot said seven seniors, eight juniors and one 10th grader dropped out. She said one student was 19, eight were 18 and seven were 17. Six were females and 10 were male, she added.

“Seven of the students were receiving special education services and seven were not,” she said. “Two had received special education services but were not at the time of their withdraw from school.”

Board member Harvey Taylor asked if after-school tutoring was available at this time.

“We have various programs that are offered through some of the grants that are offered at the Middle School and Elementary Schools because the Critical Skills Grant has been cut back,” George said. “We have had summer school and other options for these students. We have interventions and other options for these students but sometimes they do not take advantage of them.”

Proudfoot said all county high schools offer credit recovery the following semester or school year in which students can recoup the credit.

Board members asked Proudfoot at what age students can drop out of school.

“They can drop out at age 17,” Proudfoot said. “There is contemplation to raise the drop-out age to 18. At this point it is optional by county. I would like to plant that seed in your minds to consider later.”

The next Randolph County Board of Education meeting is slated for 6 p.m. March 5.