Bail-out illustrates major problem
Far be it for the Corridor Chronicle to ever agree with the state Board of Education on much of anything. Hell bent, as they were and are, to consolidate every school in the state into one, this group has never been a friend to local education.
We have acknowledged, however, that as long as local school systems depend on funding provided through the state and federal governments, strings will be attached. Those who want to do away with the Common Core curriculum have an easy choice: refuse state and federal funding and implement McGuffey’s Readers if that is your choice. Take the fed money and do what they say is the alternative.
Clearly, state legislators have no idea how to construct a budget within the means of West Virginians. Borrowing from the rainy day fund is now the only answer lawmakers can come up with to balance income and expenditures. How long they can keep robbing from Peter to pay Paul is highly questionable.
It is not difficult, either, to see why local representatives would want to bail out the Boone County school system, which mere weeks before the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year faced not being able to pay its teachers or service personnel. So, after conflict and debate, the legislature and governor granted Boone the millions needed to carry it through June 30.
Republican conservatives like Michel Moffatt rail against new taxes and fees while demanding cuts in services. Yet, even this vast GOP majority could not craft a budget that matched expenditures with revenues.
Taxing tobacco products at a higher rate apparently did not violate Republican promises to “raise no new taxes and fees” in the muddle minds of legislators. Thus, an increase in the tobacco tax and a robbery of the rainy day fund produced what is comically called a balanced budget. It is not.
Although we would have been hard put, serving the Boone County area, to criticize the extraordinary bail out of the school system here, it is nonetheless inconsistent with what Republicans have preached. It is also an invitation for the mayhem that has followed.
The Boone School Board has made significant cuts in budget and personnel. But, according to State Superintendent Michael Martirano it is not enough to balance the budget. When he saw what the county board approved, Martirano rejected it and ordered more cuts. The local board heard from the state super and refused to follow his directives.
We further concede that ordering these cuts may be just another way of the state forcing the closure of Van High School. It would not be surprising to know that Little Lloyd Jackson and other members of the state board want to continue to rip out the hearts of as many small communities served by high schools as they can.
But the biggest concern is whether Boone officials have learned anything about the state of their economy. Coal mines, once dominant in the economic base, have all virtually closed down. Where millions poured into tax coffers, now the flow is reduced to a drizzle at best. Boone County families are hurting; the economy is devastated; and public officials have to recognize that — now.
We can argue until the cow’s come home about whether public bodies should have foreseen the coming crisis and acted sooner. Maybe so; maybe not. But the items to watch now are the current state of the economy and its projected future. Neither are pretty views.
The biggest thing a conservative Republican legislature may have done is set a precedent for bailing out any local agency in financial trouble. If Boone deserved more than $2 million, why does X County not deserve the same? The domino effect here is chilling.
The biggest problem Republican legislators undoubtedly had was how to enact a fiscally-responsible budget in an election year. They failed at the task. Those, like Moffatt, lacked the intestinal fortitude to make the tough decisions that were required. Now, everyone is suffering.
We will not, as we noted earlier, side with the state school board against Boone County. We will live in hope that this is simply another case of the state board grandstanding to get it way on consolidation. But facts and real figures are needed to show that Boone County can somehow generate the revenue the school system claims for this fiscal year.
If it cannot show that, we are all heading into more troubled water.