BOE discusses declining enrollment

The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Henry-Vance The superintendent of the Randolph County Board of Education makes a proclamation Tuesday to recognize the week of Sept. 25 to 29 as West Virginia Association of Retired School Employees Week. Shown here during the meeting, from left, are Superintendent of Schools Gabriel J. ‘Gabe’ Devono; Luanna Moore, local membership chairperson; Rosemary Markley, local secretary; Lorrayne Corley, local budget chairperson; Donna Auvil, local president of the Randolph County ARSE and the Randolph County Board of Education; and Judy Harris, local vice president.

ELKINS — Randolph County Board of Education members heard an update Tuesday about the county’s 2017 financial statement, which reflects the trend over the past few years of decreasing enrollment and funding.

Brad Smith, director of finance for Randolph County Schools, presented an outline of the county’s annual financial statements for the fiscal year that ended June 30 during the board’s regular meeting.

Smith said the annual financial statements will go through an audit, and are subject to adjustments. At this point, he said the county’s unrestricted balance at the end of 2017 was a surplus of $460,163, which represents a decrease in fund balance of $126,807. He said that last year, the carryover was $586,970.

Smith also said projections for the current fiscal year are leaning toward a deficit for a number of factors, including the lack of an excess levy to provide school funding, as well as extremely large decreases based on declining student enrollment, federal funding tied to national forest lands and other decreases.

For example, Medicaid services reimbursement for the county has decreased about $600,000 over a seven- to eight-year period.

The county school system also has lost major funding from the federal Secure Rural Schools Act, which often is referred to as national forest funding.

Randolph County used to receive an average of more than $400,000 from SRS funding, and Smith has said that amount fell to an average of $235,000 in recent years.

Congress failed to reauthorize the critical funding this year, and Randolph County only received $48,000 for the 2017 fiscal year after the funds reverted back to being based on a portion of timber sales.

“It’s hard to keep ahead of cuts like that,” he said Tuesday.

However, U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., have supported an effort to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools Act.

“There seems to be a bipartisan push for this money, so it’s very hopeful,” Smith said.

Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Gabriel J. “Gabe” Devono said he has heard similar discussion about the funding, but said it might not be until late this year before any decisions are made at the federal level.

“We probably won’t know anything until Christmas time,” Devono said. “It would be a nice gift to get.”

• In other board business, members of the Randolph County Association of Retired School Employees requested a proclamation for Sept. 25 to 29 to be West Virginia Association of Retired School Employees Week, and Devono signed the proclamation.

The proclamation notes the WVARSE has approximately 7,000 members from six different regions in the state, and the group promotes the economic, social and professional status of retired school employees.

The next regular Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 3 at the county’s board office in Elkins.