By MICHAEL ERB
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — The head of RESA 5 says a plan to eliminate state funding for regional service agencies will have a ripple effect on communities and send local control of RESAs back to Charleston.
Gov. Jim Justice this week unveiled his plan to address an estimated $500 million budget shortfall which included the raising of some fees and taxes and the cutting of some agency budgets. Those cuts include $3.7 million for the state’s eight Regional Education Service Agencies.
Joe Oliverio, executive director of RESA 5 in Parkersburg, said the cuts would be about $400,000 out of the agency’s $6.1 million budget.
“That pays the executive director’s salary, the finance director’s salary, the professional development director’s salary, all maintenance for the building,”he said.
That move would effectively remove local control of the agency, but wouldn’t affect the RESAs program funding, which primarily comes through grants and other sources. Many of those funds are attached to specific programs and wouldn’t be available to pay for the positions which would lose state funding.
“So effectively you’d be sending control back to Charleston,” Oliverio said. “The part that makes the RESAs so attractive to the 55 counties is they are a regional service agency. Some of the grant money we use is only available through service agencies.”
RESA 5 provides support services and training for school systems in Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Tyler, Wirt and Wood counties. The agency also provides training for other community agencies, such as volunteer fire departments.
The RESA conducts purchasing programs which allow school systems and agencies to pool their purchasing power, allowing them to save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on purchases such as food, gasoline and supplies.
If those programs are limited, agencies throughout the region and state could find their expenses increasing and opportunities for professional development limited, Oliverio said.
“I don’t think people are realizing the scope of what all could be affected by this,” Oliverio said. “There is a ripple effect that has not been thought out.”
Even more troubling, Oliverio said, is Senate Bill 181, which calls for the abolishment of all the state’s RESAs.
“We would welcome the opportunity to work with the state Senate, House, governor’s office, in any type of plan moving forward to help our state as well as our communities,” he said. “We’re just hoping for a seat at the table.”
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