Wood County Board of Education holds budget work session

Finance director urges caution as numbers could change

Photo by Michael Erb Wood County Schools Finance Director Whitni Kines presents projected fiscal year 2019 revenue numbers Saturday during a budget workshop session of the Wood County Board of Education.

PARKERSBURG — Wood County Schools is projecting a nearly $5.7 million reserve for fiscal year 2019, but officials warned those numbers could drop in the coming months.

The Wood County Board of Education met Saturday morning to review the proposed budget and information on each department in Wood County Schools. Finance Director Whitni Kines said projected revenue for fiscal year 2019 is about $108.1 million, which is an increase from the current fiscal year. That number does not include carryover, she said. Wood County Schools is heavily dependent on state funding, which accounts for more than 62 percent of the district’s revenue.

Kines said the 2019 revenue numbers increased slightly because the West Virginia Legislature recently approved a 5 percent pay increase for teachers and service personnel.

“It’s not a real increase. It’s just coming in and going out,” she said.

Nearly 83 percent of the district’s costs are personnel, Kines said.

“That’s the business we’re in,” she said.

The district also is projecting a fund reserve for 2019 of $5,679,770, just below 5 percent of the district’s total budget. That number includes a projected carryover of about $1.5 million from fiscal year 2018.

About four years ago, Wood County Schools saw its carryover almost depleted, with less than $100,000 held in reserve. The board has worked in recent years to bolster that amount, as the state Department of Education has recommended all school systems carry a 3-5 percent “unrestricted fund balance” which can be used in case of emergency.

Kines cautioned, however, the nearly $5.7 million projected reserve could change during the next several months as state and federal numbers become available. Possible changes in the state teachers retirement fund could cause that reserve to drop dramatically, she said.

If the district’s reserve would fall below 3 percent, about $3.4 million, Wood County Schools would be placed on a state financial watchlist, she said.

Kines said declining enrollment continues to be a major financial concern for the school system, as the state aid formula is based upon the number of students. As of Friday, Wood County Schools student enrollment was 12,378, and Kines said the district already has lost more than 200 students this year.

Kines said the district’s Comprehensive Education Facilities Plan, or CEFP, which is a road map of facility needs from 2010-20, had projected a student population for this year of around 13,500.

“It was way off,” Kines said. “That (decline) is going to continue to put pressure on our system.”

Another upcoming issue, Kines said, is the school system’s 80-percent excess levy. The levy generates more than $19 million, or about 18 percent of the district’s revenue, and will expire June 30, 2019. According to the presented budget workshop document, the levy is used to “provide additional staff above the state funding formula, maintenance of buildings and grounds, funds for classrooms and other school needs, dental insurance and other salary and benefits.”

Kines said other agencies, such as Artsbridge and the WVU Extension service, receive some funding through the levy as well.