Editor’s note: Due to technical problems, this story was incomplete in last week’s edition.
Next year, school funding is expected to be extremely tight — tighter than it has been this year, according to Wyoming County Schools Superintendent Frank Blackwell.
This year, funding has been cut as a result of the declining coal market and other factors.
Like dominos, taxes coming into the state coffers have declined, so the trickle down to counties has also been slashed.
In October, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin cut state funding across the board, including a 1 percent cut to county school districts across the state. That 1 percent cut cost Wyoming County Schools $243,000.
The same goes for taxes coming into the county treasury; severance taxes are down, so is the county budget.
“I understand they are trying to balance the budget,” Blackwell said.
“We’re hoping all this will soon bottom out.”
• • •
“What we’re doing right now is cutting back on everything that doesn’t directly impact services to our students,” he emphasized.
For example, equipment will be repaired rather than replaced. Entry-way rugs will no longer be replaced weekly, but bi-weekly or even monthly, he said.
“Unless something becomes a ‘has to,’ then it won’t be replaced,” he said.
“Basically, we’re not doing any new projects. Our focus now is to take care of what we have,” Blackwell said.
“We’re not using substitutes – if we can get by without one.
“When you start adding up all these little things over a year, then it adds up to a great deal of savings,” Blackwell noted.
• • •
In the coming 2016-17 school year, he said, state reimbursements will be down because the student enrollment is down.
As a result, 14.5 professional positions and 21.5 service personnel positions have been eliminated for next year, according to Deirdre Cline, assistant schools superintendent.
Cline will begin leading the school system July 1, when Blackwell retires.
Cline emphasized the positions were eliminated through attrition as much as possible.
Those efforts to save jobs resulted in only 11 service personnel being terminated, officials emphasize.
• • •
The student population has hovered around 4,100 to 4,200 children for the past decade, Blackwell noted.
The enrollment peak came in the 1957-58 school year with 11,816 students.
“The mines were booming then,” Blackwell noted.
And the mining industry declined, then rebounded some in the mid 1970s.
That trend has also continued, with the industry declining, then coming back somewhat.
For the most part, however, the school enrollment decline has been steady, with very few exceptions, since the mid 1970s.
According to the West Virginia Department of Education, Wyoming County Schools’ 2015-16 enrollment is 4,060. That is 82 fewer students than the previous year, 2014-15.
From the 2013-14 term to the 2014-15 school year, the enrollment fell by 114 students, according to the state department figures.
“That is a significant number of students,” Blackwell noted.
“We’re really worried at how much the decrease is going to be next year – with all these mines closing,” he said. “People are leaving to find work.
“The drop has started. The question now is: How many have we actually lost.”