Budget cuts may not be enough for Barbour BOE

PHILIPPI – A preliminary draft of the Barbour County Board of Education budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year is already showing that budget cuts may not be enough to make the numbers come out even, school officials said Monday.

Annette Hughart, chief finance officer for the BOE, said at Monday’s meeting that paring the budget down to where it needs to be is “going to be a massive group effort.”

“Doing what we have listed in budget cuts is going to be very difficult, but it’s still not enough and that’s the bottom line,” Hughart said. “This still isn’t enough budget cuts to balance our budget. Right now – even with all these proposed cuts – if we can achieve these, we still will be spending more than we’re bringing in revenue.”

Superintendent Dr. Joe Super said the final budget for the BOE is not due until May 30. Monday’s meeting was the first time a draft had been presented; that draft, however, did not detail the specifics of each line item.

Hughart said she already has cut back cost estimates for expenses like services, employees, board meetings and board member training to as little as she is comfortable with, rather than allowing for potentially higher costs.

“”There are no cushions in payroll or possible positions being added,” Hughart said. “There are no cushions for utility increases. There are no vehicles that desperately need replaced. All that kind of stuff is out at this point. That’s what is kind of scary.”

The school board already has been considering its options to save on energy costs.

“We’re trying to look at ideas that obviously aren’t going to be more expensive than there are savings,” Hughart said.

In other business, an incident involving a gas odor in January that unearthed a heating problem was discussed at the board meeting. Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students who were transferred to Belington Middle School until further notice after cracks were discovered in a furnace have not yet been able to return to their school.

Facilities Director Glen Sweet said Monday the furnace repair would not be a simple task and that its completion would be dependent on weather.

Sweet said a maintenance worker is hopeful that he can make the necessary repairs in two weeks time, but there is no guarantee.

Sweet suggested using three different meters to detect if there is carbon monoxide when the furnace is tested after school hours “so we have time to clear the air in the building.”

In January, Super said the students would be able to return to their school once the repairs were made and the proper tests were conducted. Because the school year is so far along already and officials want to do more thorough testing to guarantee safety, the BOE may consider keeping the three grade levels at the middle school for the remainder of the school year.

“We’d like to get (them) back in there, but at the same time, if we can’t get that thing (the furnace) in there by the Easter break, I’m not sure that we might just want to wait until summer time,” Super said. “Let them finish out the year.”

Super said that would give the maintenance team a chance to test the facility over the summer and be certain the facility is safely secured with a working furnace.

Keeping the three elementary school grade levels at Belington Middle School for the remainder of the school year is simply a concept at this point, Super said. There have been no formal recommendations brought to the board so far.