Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 27, 2013

Possible cuts anticipated for Tazewell County schools

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

TAZEWELL, Va. — Facing a $3.26 million budget shortfall, the Tazewell County School Board is considering eliminating positions and making program cuts if additional funds cannot be found.

Tazewell County Schools Superintendent Dr. Brenda Lawson said the school board met Wednesday to discuss what cuts might have to be made if the school does not receive the approximately $16.3 million requested from the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors.

“We reviewed revenues and where reductions could be made,” Lawson said. “The board discusses staff reductions, such as not replacing retiring teachers. Staff reduction would be based on student enrollment and what programs we are required to offer. We may reassign some positions. Unfortunately, every category will feel the pain and reduction.”

Despite the cuts, Lawson said the school board is hopeful it can still provide a salary increase to employees.

“The board is standing firm on giving a 2 percent salary increase to all employees,” Lawson said. “The board is committed to providing a health care package to all employees at the current levels. We know there will be some reductions, but it isn’t my intent as superintendent nor is it the board’s intent that these reductions will make anything but a minimal impact to students in Tazewell County.”

Unfortunately, Lawson said decreased funding from the federal and state level and an increase in unfunded mandates have put many school systems across the Commonwealth in a budgetary bind.

“We are to the point now — and this is disconcerting for me — that we are chipping away at the quality of education we are providing for our children and the people in Tazewell County,” she said.

Lawson said no action was taken at Wednesday’s school board meeting, which was recessed until after the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors meet to finalize the county budget.

“We did have a budget meeting with representatives of the school board and representatives of the county’s budget committee,” Lawson said. “They feel revenue will be up for the county and because of improved revenues, they may be able to kick in additional money. It might end up a little better than what is currently proposed. It is up to the five people on the Board of Supervisors to make that decision. We are hoping to get between $14.7 million or $14.8 million. With that much, we will still loose some things but our situation won’t be as draconian or problematic.”

— Contact Kate Coil at kcoil@bdtonline.com