Highland Board of Supervisors April Meeting

Creating a budget and making ends meet is never easy, whether it be for household finances or the Federal government. And when revenue falls far short of expenses, it means tough decisions have to be made. That is the situation facing the Highland Board of Supervisors as they go through the process of finalizing the upcoming fiscal year for the county. They have received budget appropriations and requests from both county offices and outside organizations, and in the end, the amount of expenses exceeds projected revenue by $560,000. This leads to three equally unappealing options – cut appropriations, raise taxes or use county savings to meet the shortfall.

Through budget work sessions and cuts, the deficit has been reduced . To further bring expenses into line, they had requested that the school system cut over $114,000 from their proposed budget, and at Tuesday night’s meeting, Superintendent Dr. Thomas Schott and a number of school system employees were in attendance to plead their case.

Dr. Schott:

“As the funding agent, you have the right to ask us to cut the budget. What I want to do tonight is make you aware of what these cuts are going to be. So here is just a quick list of what 114. For one of the things, I had offered the teachers a step, a 1% raise – but the first thing that will be eliminated with the $114,000 cut is the 1% raise for the teachers. The admin will lose their raise. Every teacher that has 30 years plus gets $500 – that’s all eliminated.

“Then we’re going into the classes. The plan was, we had culinary one period this year, to expand it to two periods next year – the second period will be cut. Expanding STEM – that will be eliminated. And then, of course, the big one, there was a big piece going into the trades, because like I said, we need to build more of these electricians, the plumbers – well, that whole piece is gone.”

He also noted other areas which would suffer, including technology, service contracts, such as a new website, and vehicle maintenance.

“The school over the last two years, myself, and with Ms. Blum and Mr. Good’s help, have been able to move the school, and progress it forward – we are moving forward. With this, there’s no more forward movement. Like I said, the kids will still receive a great education, because I have a great staff, but as far as forward movement, that’s not going to happen the way it could.”

The supervisors countered by explaining the reasoning behind their suggested reduction, pointing out the uphill battle they face making numbers match.

Board chair Kevin Wagner:

“Now, you are aware that what we were saying was that half of that money would go into what we’re talking about for a capital fund for the school system. So I understand you’re making some amendments, but you’re also getting a larger budget out of this, and our rationale is strictly to try to carve out, for you, this capital fund to handle the roof replacements in a couple years, to handle the purchases of the new bus fleet that you’re talking about. This isn’t money that you’re losing, in that it’s going to go somewhere else.

“After the asking period, there was a deficit of $560,000. We’re trying to create a closure – that’s $.10 of personal property tax revenue that we would have to go to. Your part of that is 60% of our budget – so the other 40% of the county, we have cut over $200,000 from, to try and accomplish this so far. And we’re not done yet – I mean, we may have to cut more. So, we’re just going through a tight budget time. This board, with news that we have, about what we have, in the state of revenue, has to take a hard look at what we have. And I’m really sorry to say that, and I hope you don’t have to make any cuts, and I hope you find ways around it. But I’m just simply being honest that we are trying to close a very large gap. I mean, I don’t see how we’re going to get away without raising taxes this year.

“We’re looking at all angles, and we want to ease the blow as much as we can.”

The supervisors decided to study the numbers more before finalizing the draft budget – a work session is scheduled for Monday, April 11th, at the county modular building.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

Current Weather