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Barbour BOE discusses ‘fiscal cliff’

Federal decision could result in reduced school personnel, funding

December 19, 2012
By Melissa Toothman - Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

Educational funding hangs in the balance while Board of Education officials await a federal decision that could cut costs by as much as $2.4 million in Barbour County.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Super told the school board members Monday that the $2.4 million figure was based on a worst-case scenario where everything that could potentially go wrong does. He said he doesn't believe the toll will equate to that high of a number.

"We're just a little blip statewide to what's going to happen in some of these other counties, but we have taken that into consideration," Super said.

Board member Doward Matlick said that the state ordered local assessors to reach 60 percent of the actual market value on their property evaluations.

"As part of that law, if I understood it correctly, if your county assessor does not have the assessments (to) at least 54 percent, then school aid formula for your county is cut (by) 8 percent," Matlick said.

In preparation of the worst, Barbour County school administrators will review staffing and programs that may need to be cut for the school system to endure the potential budget changes.

"We are looking at everything. There will be no sacred cows in this situation," Super said. "When the levy went down, it drastically changed a lot of perspectives as to what we could be able to do going forward. Now it's going to represent a very serious tightening of the belt."

Super said his bottom line is to be able to run the school system while still being able to provide a quality education. He said it would take some real work from a number of people, including the school board, when tough recommendations are brought forth. He said those recommendations could result in staffing reduction.

"We know people's livelihoods, their professions and the quality of education is affected by what we're dealing with, and so we take it very seriously," Board president Bob Wilkins said. "It isn't pleasant, but it's a task that we've taken on. We're going to take care of it appropriately."

Super said that some grant funded programs are a concern because it is uncertain if the grant money will return the following school year.

"We are faced with some very serious concerns for next year related to staffing," Super said, adding that the school system is currently 3.09 positions over the funding formula for professionals.

Two positions that are cause for concern are technology system specialists, which are funded by grant money.

"I think we really, really need to be aware that two of those positions are soft monies, and we don't know if they're going to be there or not," Super said, adding that those concerns are coupled with what could potentially take effect if the government doesn't "come to grips with the financial cliff that is set to go into place Jan. 2, 2013."

Super said he was able to talk to a representative of the Superintendents Association, who told him that the current fiscal year budget would not be affected. The changes would take place the following school year.

"Right now, if the dominoes fall the wrong way, it's going to be a substantial loss of money to the school system," Super said. "That's going to be every school system in the state, every school system across the nation."

Super said that Barbour County receives a high percentage of federal funds, and the federal funds are what could be affected.

"We've been told that with state fundings, we can look at a 7.5 percent cut to education," Super said, adding that whatever is done on a federal level could affect what is done on a state level. The county school board will present a budget to the state school board by May.

Hearings will be conducted to address concerns from the public.

"We are in this together," Super said. "We've got to make this work somehow."



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