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The Thrasher Group

January 17, 2020 - Volume 40 Issue 2

The House Judiciary Committee, meeting this morning, adopted House Joint Resolution 102. That measure would “continue” the state Board of Education’s “general supervision” of public schools, but would require rules promulgated by the State Board, “in performance of the (state Board of Education’s) supervisory duties…, (to be) submitted to the Legislature for its review and approval, amendment or, rejection, in whole or in part, in the manner prescribed by general law.

The resolution goes to the House floor for consideration.

Debated during the past few legislative sessions, the proposed resolution, which would have to be adopted by the Legislature and approved by voters as an amendment to the state Constitution, has not gone to the point of floor consideration.

House support for the proposal is stronger than in the Senate, based on past discussions of the proposed amendment.

The amendment was adopted by voice vote in House Judiciary.

Among those objecting to its passage were Dels. Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, and Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha.  Del. Geoff Foster, R-Putnam, was among House Judiciary Committee members voicing support for the measure.

Here is an  link to the Resolution as introduced: http://wvlegislature.gov/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=hjr102%20intr.htm&yr=2020&sesstype=rs&i=102&houseorig=h&billtype=jr

By Jim Wallace

The Department of Education is asking legislators for less money – not more – this year. Instead of more money, the department wants to avoid big changes of the type that created turmoil in the public education system in recent years.

“Stability is critical for our system right now. – Supt. Steve Paine

“Stability is critical for our system right now,” Supt. Steve Paine told members of the House Education Committee this week. He said the disappointing National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores that West Virginia students received in 2019 are a reflection of problems in the system that occurred in 2015 and 2016, when battles were fought over state standards, which then were based on the Common Core set of standards that many states adopted before they became controversial. Shortly after that, the state school board went through significant membership changes and Paine replaced former state Supt. Michael Martirano in early 2017. Paine said it takes three to four years for effects to show resulting from changes in state education law and state board policy.

“I’m looking forward to rebuilding that floor and foundation around here,” he said. “We are working hard to do the right things to lay a foundation from which we build a quality education system. I’m anxious, and I will guarantee that those [NAEP] results will go up in a couple of years…. We’re doing all the right things.”

Paine is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Mississippi, which showed the biggest improvement in student achievement scores this past year. He said Mississippi’s state superintendent has told him she attributes that improvement to stability in the system.

“To me, it’s about leadership,” Paine said. “It’s about quality teaching. It has something to do with standards, and we’ve tweaked those and changed those. But more than ever, we need stability in the system right now.”

In addition to the House Education Committee, Paine and other Education Department officials also took their budget request this week to the House Finance Committee.

“Our budget request is very modest this year, and it’s because you’ve treated us so well in the past, especially last year with additional funding for House Bill 206,” Paine told the Finance Committee in a reference to the major education bill that came out of the legislature in 2019. “We deeply appreciate those extra dollars that were put into our base budget, and for that reason, we’re not asking for any improvement packages this year. We will be asking for spending authority, but that’s just the ability to spend more federal money as provided to us for food service and special education.”

Giving legislators a general sense of the direction in which the Education Department is headed, Paine said the department wants to do more to account for what happens to students after they graduate from high school. Noting that 52.6 percent of West Virginia high school graduates enroll in some form of higher education, he said more can be done.

“We think there’s more to success beyond high school than just simply two- and four-year degrees – simply one-year advanced credentials that lead to certifications,” Paine said. The department intends to measure not only what two-year and four-year degrees high school graduates achieve at higher education institutions but also what else they are achieving to qualify themselves for the workforce, he said.

For example, he said, the Dutch Miller car dealership in the Huntington-Charleston area provided internships for 10 students from public schools’ career-technical education programs. At the end, the company planned to give one of those students a scholarship, $1,000 worth of tools, a signing bonus and a job. But the company leadership was so impressed with the students that it offered all 10 that opportunity, and six of them took it.

“That’s what we’re talking about with regard to employment – very gainful employment with skills that are required to do well,” Paine said.

“We’re the state in the country that has the greatest percentage of our kids that serve our country,” Paine said. “I’m proud of that, and I think we ought to measure for that, too.” – Supt. Steve Paine

The department also wants to account for high school graduates’ enlistment in the military services, he said. “We’re the state in the country that has the greatest percentage of our kids that serve our country,” Paine said. “I’m proud of that, and I think we ought to measure for that, too.”

Most budget items are lower for next year.

The department is requesting a budget of more than $2.58 billion. Terry Harless, chief financial officer for the department, said most of that is state general revenue money, while the rest of it comes from lottery funds and federal funds.

Many of the line-items in the department’s budget request are down from the current fiscal year, but two notable exceptions are recommendations for increases from Gov. Jim Justice. One would increase the line-item for current expenses from $2.572 million this year to $4.58 million next year because of the governor’s plan to put in an additional $2 million for the school backpacks program that sends food home with students from low-income families on weekends. The department is working on the details of how it would work, Harless said. The other increase recommended by the governor would boost funding for the Communities in Schools program from $400,000 to $4.9 million.

Paine said the additional funding for Communities in Schools would be used to expand the program to 10 more counties and 50 more schools from the 71 schools in which it now operates.

“We’ve seen real nice student outcomes from the initial partners,” he said. “We’ve seen 100 percent graduation rate in Greenbrier County and Wyoming County, and so there’s the thought we need to grow the program for our kids mostly at risk.”

Communities in Schools is a national program that brings community resources into public schools to help address challenges students face at school or at home. Paine said his department helps allocate money for county school districts and then provides technical assistance with the national organization, which helps orient site coordinators and staff in each county to deliver services.

Proposed allocations for steps in the School Aid Formula include both increases and decreases, but overall, they would go down by more than $20.3 million.

“The primary driver for state aid funding is student enrollment, which declined during fiscal year ’20 as compared to fiscal year ’19.” – Amy Willard

“The primary driver for state aid funding is student enrollment, which declined during fiscal year ’20 as compared to fiscal year ’19,” Amy Willard, director of school finance for the Education Department, explained. “Our headcount enrollment dropped 4,122 students, and then the net enrollment adjusted for state aid funding purposes dropped 3,890 students. That’s the enrollment after we made the adjustments for the counties that have less than 1,400 students.”

The reduction in enrollment resulted in a reduction in costs for salaries, she said. The allowance for professional educators, Step 1, is down almost $13.5 million. The allowance for service personnel, Step 2, is down almost $4.2 million. The allowance for student support personnel, Step 5, is down more than $995,000. Step 3, the allowance for fixed charges, is calculated based on salary allowances, so it is reduced by more than $2.7 million.

Among the steps with proposed increases is Step 4, the allowance for student transportation, which would increase more than $2.7 million because of an increase in transportation-related costs reported by the county boards of education. Step 6 for other current expenses would increase by more than $7.6 million primary because of increased costs for operations and maintenance expenses reported by county boards for utilities and repairs.

Willard said Step 7 accounts, which are tired primarily to the calculation of local share, also would go up. Step 7a for improved instructional programs would increase by more than $2.3 million, which represents 10 percent of the growth in local share. Step 7b for 21st century strategic technology learning growth has increased by more than $4.6 million, which is 20 percent of the growth in local share. Step 7d for teacher and leader induction has increased by more than $4.6 million, which also is 20 percent of the growth in local share. Step 7c is for advanced placement courses, dual credit courses and the national baccalaureate program, which have had increased enrollment, so the allocation for it is up more than $90,000.

“That’s a powerful tool.” – Delegate Daryl Cowles

Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, expressed pleasure that the Step 7d allocation for teacher induction is going from $619,000 to $5,233,355 because he was a sponsor of a bill that resulted in the increase. “That’s a powerful tool,” he said.

“It absolutely is,” Paine said. “I think there’s a real role for teachers to assist other teachers in schools.”

As an example, he cited his experience when he worked in the Morgan County schools. He said struggling teachers were connected with better teachers, which the school district found to be a good return on investment.

“We’ve been a little reluctant to direct counties how to use that money in the spirit of local flexibility, which we’ve tried to adhere to, and you’ve directed us to do that,” Paine added. “I think there are times when we need to do more of a centralized focus and would love to discuss how we could use that money very wisely. I think there’s a great role for teacher-leaders out there right now that we’re not fulfilling.”

Step 8, the basic foundation allowance, also would go up by almost $614,000.

Local share is to play a bigger role.

Local share, which is what the counties can afford to contribute toward the education of students in their counties, is projected to increase more than $23 million statewide based on estimates provided by the state Tax Department, Willard said, so that reduces the amount of funds the state provides to county boards. With other adjustments, state aid to county school districts will be almost $22.5 million less in the next fiscal year, she said.

The reduction in the number of positions across the state has resulted in a request for more than $5.8 million less for premiums for the Public Employees Insurance Agency, Willard said. However, she said, retirement system funding is projected to go up almost $8 million based on projections by the Consolidated Public Retirement Board’s actuaries, but the figures will be updated after CPRB releases its final report.

The request for the School Building Authority of $24 million has stayed the same as for the current fiscal year. All of the above leaves the total request for School Aid Formula money at almost $1.865 billion.

Willard also noted that the department is asking for more than $2 million in additional funding for increased enrollment because of the effects of last year’s Senate Bill 1 to expand access and funding for adult education programs.

Asked about the increased enrollment of adult students, Willard said, “We had projected an increased enrollment of about 1,400 students for next year. When they changed the provision in law, it took the cap from 1,000 students to 2,500. We won’t be anywhere close to that 2,500 cap. I’m sure that over time the adult programs will expand, but I feel like the 1,400 projection for next year is pretty accurate.”

Prior to the changes created by Senate Bill 1 last year, the adult enrollment for the next fiscal year was projected at 100 students because it included students only in certain programs with high school students, she said, but last year’s legislation expanded it to all adult programs.

Harless said the total amount to be appropriated from all state funds is down more than $18.4 million. There is no change in appropriations from federal funds, except for a $10 million request to distribute additional funds to counties for the Special Education/IDEA Program and a $1 million request to distribute additional funds for career-technical education and related funds, he said. In addition, he said, school nutrition funds of almost $2.5 million would serve as a match for $151 million of federal funds.

Delegate Jeff Campbell, D-Greenbrier, questioned why school transportation funding is based on enrollment. He said Greenbrier County has about the same enrollment as Ohio County but much more territory to cover.

“There’s a major discrepancy there in the funding that’s causing a major issue for the Greenbrier County schools. Should that not be based mileage compared to student enrollment?” – Delegate Jeff Campbell

“There’s a major discrepancy there in the funding that’s causing a major issue for the Greenbrier County schools,” Campbell said. “Should that not be based mileage compared to student enrollment?”

Willard responded that the number of positions funded is based on student enrollment. “So you’re correct in that Greenbrier maybe needs more bus drivers than Ohio County that has a comparable enrollment,” she said. “But the other transportation-related costs are based on the student population density, so it looks at the number of students per square mile.”

The higher fuel costs and repair costs Greenbrier County experiences are accounted for that way, Willard said. Paine added that Tom Campbell, a state school board member from Greenbrier County, is now studying whether the School Aid Formula adequately accounts for large, sparsely populated counties.

Other information that came out of the budget hearing before the House Finance Committee included:

  • The Teachers Retirement System was 69.6 percent funded by June 30, 2018, which was a significant increase from its 41.3 percent level on June 30, 2009. Willard said an updated report on that should come out next week. She added that the 40-year plan to get the system fully funded began in 1994 with a target year of 2034, so it is past the halfway point.
  • The average state aid per student is about $4,000.
  • West Virginia public schools employ 320 school nurses with bachelor’s degrees at an average contracted salary of $52,105. The average contracted salary is a little higher than the average state-funded salary because the average contracted salary includes county supplements and additional local pay. So what the state funds is closer to about $45,000. With a total of 643 elementary, middle and high schools and 33 career-technical centers in the state, one delegate figured it would cost about $30 million to put a nurse in every school.

Another issue that came up in the House Finance Committee was about putting video cameras in every self-contained special education classroom, as required by a bill the legislature approved last year. During legislative interim meetings late in 2019, a few legislators expressed impatience at the progress of fulfilling that mandate.

Paine said the initial information the department received about the cost of such cameras came from a particular vendor, which provided “an exorbitant” cost per classroom. He said, “We think that we found a camera that, instead of a $3,500 unit, it’s $1,000.”

However, he said, he would like the legislature to tweak the law approved last year because of a provision, apparently inserted by the Senate, to distribute funding from the bill at a rate of $5,000 per school regardless of the number of self-contained special education classrooms in each school.

“If we could pull that back and redo that and rethink how we allocate that money, I think we have enough money,” Paine said.

The Department of Education is scheduled to give another presentation of its budget requests to the Senate Finance Committee on Monday afternoon.

By Jim Wallace

The Senate Education Committee this week approved a simple bill that would require the Legislative Auditor’s Office to conduct a performance audit of the Secondary School Activities Commission within a couple of years. But the course the committee took to get to that point wasn’t so simple. In fact, discussion of Senate Bill 192 took up most of the committee’s time in meetings on Tuesday and Thursday.

The committee’s work began with disparaging words about the SSAC on Tuesday and ended in a more cordial atmosphere on Thursday. Criticism of the commission on Tuesday came from Jim Dagostine, who served as a teacher and coach in Putnam County for 52 years. He said he and others started taking a close look at the SSAC’s operations because of the commission’s decision go from three classifications to four in basketball as a pilot project. He said that new formula affects three schools in Putnam County.

“We oppose the formula,” Dagostine said. “It was just statistically skewed. It had safety concerns.” He added that the new system would lead to having students out of school for more days.

“Because of this, we just started looking at the SSAC as a whole,” Dagostine said. It is supposed to be an organization of principals, he said, but no other organization is like it in West Virginia, and it seems more like a business than an agency. He said an examination of the commission’s finances revealed a need for more accountability.

“We saw where basketball was their biggest revenue sport by leaps and bounds – $553,000,” Dagostine said. “That was the reason that they did basketball [for the pilot].”

A 2018 audit of the SSAC indicated the commission spent $693,000 on salaries, $77,000 on employment insurance, $39,000 on retirement, $18,000 on other expenses, and $110,000 on travel, he said. A law firm told him no other organization is like the SSAC and the only entity that could do something about it is the legislature. When the SSAC started, county school boards were to have oversight, but they turned that duty over to principals, he said.

The vote among principals on going to four classes in basketball was 111 to 26, he said, but there were 288 member schools, so less than 50 percent of the schools approved the change.“But the principals don’t run the SSAC; the SSAC runs the principals,” Dagostine said.

“We’re in a time when they take and wine and dine these principals for three days, and then they get the vote they want,” Dagostine charged. He suggested the principals’ meetings should be online and all principals should be accountable to their school boards for their votes. Further, he suggested, the SSAC’s fall and spring clinics could be done online, which would reduce travel expenses.

The principals and the state school board rubberstamp what the SSAC does, Dagostine charged. “They really answer to no one,” he said. “They don’t get their budget preapproved.”

Dagostine questioned whether the SSAC meets the criteria for being a nonprofit organization. He also questioned why it participates in the Public Employees Retirement System and the Public Employees Insurance Agency when it is not a state agency. In addition, he questioned whether the SSAC was giving schools adequate compensation for playoff games.

Legislators would do an injustice to schools, athletes, families, fans and communities if they would fail to pass a bill to impose checks and balances on the SSAC, he said. When he started coaching at age 20, the SSAC was a modest organization with a little building, a director, an assistant director and a secretary, he said. It was like a mom-and-pop store then, he said, and now it is more like a Kroger store.“The SSAC operates on the back of athletes of West Virginia public schools,” Dagostine said. “West Virginia taxpayers – families, fans – pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to go to these things. They finance this agency. This agency is unique – only one like it in the state, I repeat. As the lawyers said, they’re just out there. They don’t answer to the Freedom of Information Act. They don’t answer to anyone, and they’re accountable to no one.”

“They do what they want as they want,” Dagostine said.

After those harsh words against the SSAC, senators wanted to hear the SSAC’s side, but no one was there to represent the commission even though Senate Education Chairwoman Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said she had invited the SSAC on Monday.

“This is a very weighty issue,” Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, said. “I think we need to take the coach’s concerns to heart.” But he also wanted to try again to get someone from the SSAC to speak to the committee.

Asked for the Department of Education and state school board’s position on the matter, Sarah Stewart, legislative liaison for the department, said, “While the board does oversee the SSAC rules, we are not involved in their daily operations nor do we really have a position on the bill before you.”

Asked how he would conduct an audit of the SSAC, Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred said his agency would start by conferring with legislative leaders, the SSAC, the state school board and principals. The wording of the bill on Tuesday would have required an annual audit, but Allred suggested it would make more sense to set a date for completion of the first audit and then establish that his office would continue to have access and authority to do future audits.

“If this passes this session, I believe we could have an audit completed before the 2021 session,” he said.

Romano again pressed for giving the SSAC another chance to respond to the charges against it. But Rucker said, “When we did reach out to them, they had the opportunity to be here. They said they would be here if I demanded them to be here. I told them, ‘No, I don’t require you to be here.’”

“I don’t see any problem with having a performance audit. It is an unusual situation with the SSAC, and so that’s the reason why this bill was on the agenda.” – Sen. Patricia Rucker

While she said she would be glad to postpone action on the bill, she added that she didn’t want to spend another full committee meeting on it.

“I don’t see any problem with having a performance audit,” Rucker said. “It is an unusual situation with the SSAC, and so that’s the reason why this bill was on the agenda.”

Situation changed on Thursday.

When the committee adjourned on Tuesday, members seemed uncertain what to do but concerned about the charges leveled by Dagostine. When they reconvened on Thursday, they had a new version of Senate Bill 192 to work on. One big change was that it no longer would declare SSAC’s funds to be public but would leave them in their current designation of quasi-public. It also called for the Legislative Auditor’s Office to complete an initial performance audit by December 1, 2021, but future audits could be done at reasonable intervals rather than be required annually or on some other set schedule.

On Thursday, the senators also heard from Bernie Dolan, executive director of the SSAC, and others associated with the commission. He explained that the SSAC is a voluntary, private organization of 286 members from public, private and parochial high schools and middle schools. Its primary responsibility is to enforce rules for sports, he said, and it also is charged with hosting state tournaments at the sectional, regional and championship levels.

Most of the SSAC’s revenue comes from the basketball and football tournaments, Dolan said. Tournaments in other sports produce little or no revenue, he said, but the commission does get some revenue from corporate partners, from training coaches, and some from registering its 3,500 officials.

“We receive no revenue from the state in any form,” Dolan said. “We believe that the extracurricular activities are the number one dropout prevention program. Kids need to be involved in activities.”

The SSAC has 10 positions, although one has been vacant since July, he said. His employees include three assistant executive directors, a social media communications person, an accountant and three secretaries, he said.

The commission has a 10-member board of directors. Five are principals who are elected. Five other members are appointed by their organizations. They include one from the state school board and a designee of the state superintendent, as well as representatives of superintendents, athletic directors and the West Virginia School Board Association. Dolan said the board meets 10 times a year, and its decisions can be appealed to a board of review appointed by the Department of Education.

Romano asked if designating the SSAC’s funds as public would cause a problem. Dolan said it could because the SSAC has private schools as members.

Bill Wooton, a former state senator who is legal counsel for the SSAC, agreed that if the SSAC’s funds were declared to be public, it would cause problems with the money collected from parochial and private schools. “I think you may have a First Amendment issue there,” he said.

“It’s a private organization that’s been in existence for more than 100 years. I’m not aware that anything is broke that needs to be fixed. I’m not opposed to government. The government does an awful lot of good things, but the private sector does some good things, too.” – Bill Wooton

“It’s a private organization that’s been in existence for more than 100 years,” Wooton said. “I’m not aware that anything is broke that needs to be fixed. I’m not opposed to government. The government does an awful lot of good things, but the private sector does some good things, too.”

Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, asked if a problem occurred that led to Senate Bill 192. Dolan said it apparently came from the decision to split schools into four classifications for basketball based on a formula that is meant to create more competitive balance. He said 70 percent of the formula is based on each school’s enrollment and 20 percent is based on the school’s location because urban schools tend to have more resources than rural schools. He said evidently unhappiness among some people over that new system led to the creation of Senate Bill 192.

“That’s what makes me nervous about being a public entity,” Dolan said. “Every time there’s a disgruntled school, am I going to be in front of you?”

“Personally, I’m not sure I know why this would make anything better,” Plymale said about the bill. “I’m not sure I know why we need to look at everything you do.”

Dolan said the SSAC takes in revenue of a bit more than $1 million a year. It gives about a quarter of that back to schools as reimbursements for tournaments, he said, and it spends much on travel expenses. He noted that most of the commission’s revenues come in from November through March from the football and basketball tournaments, so it must keep a reserve to get through the rest of the year. He said schools keep all the gate receipts from sectional games, and the SSAC takes receipts from regional and championship games.

“It’s more than a fair tradeoff,” Dolan said. He said schools get money for tournaments based on how many students participate and how far they travel. He added that the state already does financial audits of the SSAC.

The committee also heard from David Cottrell, principal of Clay-Battelle Middle-High School in Monongalia County and the longest-serving member of the SSAC’s executive board.

“We do not pay any dues to be a part of that organization,” he said. “There’s no cost to us to be a part of that.”

Also, he said, every student athlete is covered by the SSAC’s catastrophic insurance at no cost to the schools.

Cottrell said the SSAC has a system of check and balances. Any principal can contact board members about their decisions, he said.

“It’s a little bothersome to think that maybe we’re up here talking because somebody’s upset with one of the decisions that we’ve made somewhere down the road.” – David Cottrell

“It’s a little bothersome to think that maybe we’re up here talking because somebody’s upset with one of the decisions that we’ve made somewhere down the road,” Cottrell said.

In the end, the committee approved an amended version of Senate Bill 192 that would simply require a performance audit to be completed by December 1, 2021. Under the bill, the SSAC’s funds would remain quasi-public and not be declared public.

The bill now goes to the full Senate.

 

By Jim Wallace

The Senate Education Committee approved two bills this week that could make new courses available in West Virginia’s public schools.

Senate Bill 42 would permit county boards of education to include faith-based electives in classroom drug prevention programs. The state school board would have to develop a rule on how that would work.

The bill is identical to one passed by the Senate last year that failed to get through the House of Delegates. The bill was scheduled for its second reading before the full Senate today, so the Senate could pass it as early as Monday.

The other bill, Senate Bill 297, would require the state school board to create a home economics course for students in secondary schools. However, no school would be required to offer the course.

The committee’s approval sends the bill to the Senate Finance Committee for further consideration.

By Jim Wallace

A School Building Authority official has told legislators the agency is funding almost half of all requests for funding school construction and renovation projects but hopes to do better with the help of the legislature.

“We are working on possible legislation to allow transferring any unspent debt service to school construction,” Sue Chapman, chief financial officer of the SBA, told members of the House Finance Committee at a budget hearing this week. The authority also made a similar budget presentation to the House Education Committee.

“The current goal is to have $59 million each year to fund school construction projects,” Chapman said. “Current funds are coming from the $24 million in general revenue and the $35 million in special revenue.”

The School Building Authority also has another $2.6 million that is not being used for debt service in one fund, she said, and the agency would like to put that money to work.

“We are funding at almost 50 percent of the total requests that come in.  As we look to the future and possible options to meet the needs of school construction, the authority continues to evaluate all options. Using any unspent funds that are appropriated for debt service as those bonds mature, then we have excess funds in that debt service line. What we would like to do is take that…money and put it toward school construction.” – Sue Chapman

“We are funding at almost 50 percent of the total requests that come in,” Chapman said. “As we look to the future and possible options to meet the needs of school construction, the authority continues to evaluate all options. Using any unspent funds that are appropriated for debt service as those bonds mature, then we have excess funds in that debt service line. What we would like to do is take that – just as in 2017, the debt service as it was paid off – take that money and put it toward school construction.”

The authority might present legislation to do that this session, she said. Otherwise, she said, her agency is looking for little change this year.

“The SBA supports the governor’s budget for FY ’20-’21,” Chapman said. “The SBA has no improvement packages or supplementals at this time.”

The authority also supports the current pay-as-you-go system for school construction, she said, but the SBA is studying alternatives by working with the Public Resources Advisory Group, which has expertise in evaluating and advising in long-term planning strategies, such as funding options for school construction – debt service versus pay as you go.

David Roach, executive director of the School Building Authority, told legislators the SBA is budgeted for 34 positions with none of them vacant. However, three positions were transferred from the Division of Homeland Security to the SBA for monitoring and auditing federal projects funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Kanawha and Nicholas counties, he said.

“With more than $300 million in federal funds passing thought the SBA for these projects, these positions are critical in our role as a fiduciary [agent] of these funds,” Roach said. Usually in years two to five after projects are completed, an audit is done of each project, he said. If anything is out of line, the state must repay the money to the federal government, he said, and that’s why the three positions were transferred to the SBA.

“Planning is critical. Local county boards of education must develop a 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan.” – David Roach

“Planning is critical,” Roach said about school construction projects in general. “Local county boards of education must develop a 10-year comprehensive educational facilities plan.”

In either June or December of this year, the SBA plans to switch to digital funding for the first time, he said. The agency will have a digital comprehensive educational facilities plan (CEFP) that will make it easier for counties, the state school board and the SBA, Roach said.

On the topic of planning, Chapman said, “I speak to the local county boards of education and superintendents about funded sustainability and funded depreciation. These are key to long-term planning. Some of the counties are currently doing this, but we’re encouraging more to. In other words, when the School Building Authority funds your project and you have fixed assets, as you are depreciating your assets, we believe you should have a plan in place to fund through that depreciation process.”

The SBA also wants to maximize its investments, she said. “So I evaluate our cash flow and then make the determination of what funds can go out and be invested while we’re waiting for schools to draw down those funds for their projects,” Chapman said.

Roach noted that, since the School Building Authority began in 1989, it has helped fund $3.4 billion of school construction and renovation projects. Of that, $1.5 billion came from local funds and $1.9 billion came from the SBA.

Delegate criticizes Nicholas County plans.

After the agency’s budget presentation to the House Education Committee, Delegate Caleb Hanna, R-Webster, took the opportunity to complain about school construction projects in Nicholas County, which is partly in his district. The projects are to replace schools damaged in flooding in 2016.

“Just the lack of transparency within our county school board during this process of rebuilding has just been horrible in my opinion.” – Delegate Caleb Hanna

“It’s been three years now, going on four, these kids haven’t had a school,” Hanna said. “Just the lack of transparency within our county school board during this process of rebuilding has just been horrible in my opinion. I know last year I said something about my trust in our county school board and they sent a letter to the speaker and to the chair of Education at that time, saying that I shouldn’t be able to express my opinion pretty much, so expect a letter, Mr. Chairman. But it’s just been a horrible situation.”

Richwood lost a middle school and a high school, while the western side of the county in the Summersville area lost a middle school. Hanna said he doesn’t like the way those schools will be replaced.

“Our side of the county is going to get a K-through-12 [school],” he said. “The other side that lost one school is going to get a [grades] six-through-12 [school]. Then we’re going to move the vocational school that’s on the eastern side of the county over to that side of the county.”

Hanna said it was his understanding that about $30 million would be spent on the Richwood building, which would sit on about three acres, while $40 million would be on the middle school/high school for the Summersville area that would sit on about 70 acres.

“It’s pretty evident that I think Richwood’s getting the short end of the stick on this one,” he said. “I think this is just a really big deal, and it’s horrible what our county board has done to the city of Richwood in Nicholas County.”

Editor’s Note – Jim Wallace is a former government reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail, former news director of West Virginia Public Radio and former news director of WWVA/WOVK radio in Wheeling. He now works for TSG Consulting, a public relations and governmental affairs company with offices in Charleston and Beckley. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University. Wallace is the author of the 2012 book,A History of the West Virginia Capitol: The House of State.