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Morgan County BOE tightens belt

March 25, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A proposed $26,579,378 budget for fiscal year 2009-10 and a continued 83.5 percent special levy rate was approved Tuesday night by the Morgan County Board of Education.

The preliminary budget will be sent to the state for its approval. The final vote will be made April 21, board President Laura Smith said.

General expenses of $22,649,131 for fiscal year 2009-10 are lower than last year by more than $82,000. The special revenue fund of $3,525,247 is lower than last year by more than $80,000.

School funding is collected from local property taxes. The general expense levy funding comes from about $5 million in local property taxes and more the $7 million in state aid. The local tax funding is used for general operating expenses for all West Virginia schools, Morgan County Schools Treasurer Nancy White said.

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The excess levy funding of about $5 million comes from local property taxes and is used for Morgan County Schools only, she said. The funds pay for books, computers, school trips and other classroom supplies.

No raises will be given to school employees this year, Smith said, "and we are asking everyone to bear with us."

"We are tightening everywhere we can," Smith said.

Nearly $800,000 was lost in state aid, White said.

On March 20, White learned the state calculated the local share incorrectly and a new budget had to be made for Tuesday's meeting.

"It was decided the levy must remain at 83.5 percent," White said. "We have cut expenses as much as possible."

At the end of the budget meeting on March 19, after White proposed a budget of about $27 million, the board asked White to look into an 80 percent levy rate, but on Friday morning, she got the call from the state office that the figures she was given were incorrect.

"We heard from the taxpayers (when the special levy was passed in November), and we asked our financial officer to let us roll the levy back to 80 percent, but then it became impossible," Smith said.

"This will be the tightest year since I've been on the board," Smith said.

In addition to no pay raises, the budget contains cuts in textbooks and teachers' travel, reduced school allocations and teaching positions that might not be replaced, White said.

"This will be a very, very tight year," White said.

Public comments will be heard regarding the levy rate at the April 14 BOE meeting at 6:30 p.m. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 4, White said.

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