Boone school board passing buck on budget

An editorial from The Dominion Post 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — We ’re all forced to make decisions more difficult than we’re willing to make sometimes.

You know, get called on to pitch when the bases are loaded, nobody’s out and your season is on the line.

Or your company, your campaign or your school district is on the line.

Our advice: Do your best and forget the consequences. Throw strikes (be decisive).

This week, the state Board of Education (BOE) gave the Boone County school district an ultimatum: Balance your budget or we’re taking over.

That’s some pretty tough talk for an area facing some really tough times.

Though Boone County dodged the June flooding, it’s practically Ground Zero for the coal industry’s demise.

A rash of bankruptcies of major coal companies in the last year has helped create major shortfalls in Boone’s school budget.

One estimate is that almost 20 percent of its property tax revenue —which supports schools in that county —is no longer on the tax rolls as these companies’ assets are tied up in court cases.

School officials there have already closed three schools and laid off 80 employees, but refuse to submit a balanced budget to the state, which they are required to do.

It’s easy to sympathize with that school district, its teachers and staff, and especially its students.

It should be pointed out that the state Legislature provided an emergency $2.2 million loan in June to allow this school district just to meet its last payroll.

The state BOE has also gone the extra mile to avoid taking control of this school district.

Some reports have noted that this county spent beyond its budget for years, using surplus dollars to employ staff beyond the state school aid funding formula and provide benefits its budget could never sustain.

Teacher salaries in Boone County are reportedly the second-highest in the state.

In mid-June, the state school superintendent ordered the Boone school board to make severe employee pay cuts, which would have amounted to several thousand dollars for each employee.

Furthermore, it was ordered to eliminate its employer-paid vision and dental insurance coverage.

The county board has twice refused to take those actions knowing the human toll, as tough as it already is, will be even worse if it does.

We ’re torn between tipping our hat to this county school board and turning our back on them.

We ’ll do neither here, but let’s be clear: This county BOE did not live up to its obligations.

By not making this decision, it just passed the buck.

Literally, onto the state’s education system.

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