Members of the Barbour County Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night not to pay for employees' optical and dental insurance benefits in the 2013-2014 school year budget.
Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer Annette Hughart explained the benefits were not included in either budget proposal submitted to the board for possible consideration.
Hughart said the county paid approximately $225,000 for these benefits for the 2012-2013 school year.
Dr. Joseph Super, superintendent of Barbour County Schools, said the decision on the optical and dental insurance was necessary.
"Open enrollment for employees closes at the end of April," Super said. "In fairness, the employees need to know the status of these benefits. It is not our place to recommend one insurance over another, but to let them know if we opt not to fund these benefits early enough to give them time to find their own plans."
Also during Monday's meeting:
The Barbour BOE is looking to purchase a heating, ventilation and airconditioning system for the Philip Barbour High School Annex and Career Center.
The board has applied for a $2 million state School Building Authority equipment needs project, with a $150,000 local match.
Smell said the local share can be a lease-purchase of equipment. He said the interest rate would be a flat 3.5 percent and the funds would come from a bank in Moorefield.
Country Roads Leasing's lease-purchase agreements assist public agencies with a shrinking tax base. The lease-purchase program was developed as a financing alternative to cash purchases and the outright issuance of long-term municipal bonds.
By entering into a lease-purchase agreement, public entities can obtain ownership of equipment without debt obligation. Payments are regarded as a current obligation, not a debt, and require only the approval of the governing body rather than a public referendum.
Board President Bob Wilkins thanked Smell for talking with the board.
"I appreciate the opportunity to work with you and with your willingness to work with us," Wilkins said.
Board members approved the resolution to lease-purchase the equipment with Country Roads Leasing LLC.
"Both of these cause us to borrow against our future," Super said. "We will be using our OPEB (other post-employment benefits) liability and once we start to draw on this, that's it. Unless we get a levy or a windfall, there will be very little or nothing left. But this was the only way to balance our budget."
Budget plan B proposes cutting the substitute teacher budget by one-half, cutting overtime by one-third, cutting board meetings to once a month, removing 12 fax lines, reducing postage by 10 percent, reducing janitorial supplies by 5 percent and reducing lawn care by one-half.
Hughart said the budget was tight.
"As real estate and personal property taxes go up, our state aid goes down," Hughart said. "We can't get ahead unless we have an excess levy."
Board member Eric Ruf asked if the state would accept the proposed budgets.
"As long as it's balanced and meets their criteria they will accept it," Super said. "Once we accept this, we must post it 10 days before it is due."
Board member Joanne McConnell said she was worried about cutting substitutes by one-half.
"We didn't even budget enough for this year for substitutes," McConnell said. "And we think we can cut that number in half for next year?"
"We may have to sell popcorn before board meetings to make ends meet," Wilkins said.
"You asked for this budget and it is transparent," Super said. "I hope this will take care of concerns and show you what we face on a day-to-day basis."
Dana Stemple thanked Hughart for putting the budgets together in an easy-to-read format.
"Please look through these budgets and bring back any suggestions you may have at the next board meeting," Wilkins said. "We will see what we can do."
The Barbour County Board of Education will reconvene the March 25 meeting at 6 p.m. April 16 at the board of education meeting.
Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at firstname.lastname@example.org