State says Mason County Schools no longer in deficit

Beth Sergent

May 9, 2014

CHARLESTON — This week, the West Virginia Department of Education released updated audit reports on school districts in all 55 counties — and Mason County Schools is $433,711 in the black.

These reports reflect the unrestricted fund balances of the General Current Expense and Permanent Improvement funds as of June 30, 2013, adjusted to exclude OPEB liabilities and encumbrances, and a history of the adjusted unrestricted (unreserved) balances for the past five years. All amounts presented are from audited financial statements.

There were six county boards that ended the year with deficit balances in their General Current Expense Fund, though Mason County was not one of them. Mason County School’s unrestricted fund balance to total expenditures was 1.1 percent.

Mason County Schools will soon be adopting its latest budget at a special meeting set for 5:30 p.m. May 30 at the Mason County Career Center. Treasurer Gary Hendricks said a draft of the balanced budget is currently being reviewed by school board members.

Though Mason County Schools has emerged into the positive column of the spreadsheet after years in the negative, there is a concern on the horizon that has affected practically every government entity in the county — declining property assessment values.

Back in 2012, voters approved an excess levy for the schools which begins this July 1, but at the time it was passed it was based upon projected assessment values regarding collection of property taxes at $8.4 million. This decline in assessment is now more like $7 million. With less money than anticipated to work with, this has been cause for some review to determine how to provide as many services as possible and keep the checkbook balanced.

Hendricks said right now, despite it being a tough budget year to prepare for, it appears Mason County Schools’ annual budget amount will basically remain unchanged for the next fiscal year at $40 million. Again, despite some unexpected financial changes regarding property tax assessments, this new budget is expected to be balanced.

The details of this balanced budget will be discussed at the special meeting on May 30 and if voted favorable by school board members, will be sent to the state for final approval.

Mason County Schools currently employs around 600 people, with a student population of around 4,300.