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Wyoming County Schools preparing for difficult financial times ahead

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By: Pete Davis, WV MetroNews

PINEVILLE, W.Va. — Long before Wyoming County residents learned that the county’s largest private employer, the Pinnacle Mine, would not be saved from closure, administrators with the public school system were preparing for the economic hardship that such a circumstance likely would create for the county’s schools, which rely heavily on revenue generated by taxes from area businesses.

Deirdre Cline became Superintendent of Wyoming County Schools in 2016, at a time when local educational resources already were under financial strain.  In an interview with MetroNews affiliate WJLS, Cline said she and her staff had to make a series of difficult choices, in order to bring expenditures in line with state mandates.

“We had to make some really, really tough decisions regarding personnel.  We were over what the state aid funding formula allowed us (by) almost 80 personnel, and so we had to do some reduction in force, some terminations, and some transfers, and some really tough things…we worked together as a systemic team to find areas where we could save funding, without hurting services to children,” said Cline.

As a result, according to Cline, Wyoming County Schools eventually became poised to withstand the immediate effects of a substantial loss of revenue that would result under a scenario such as the closure of the Pinnacle Mine, which occurred earlier this month.

“We currently have what’s called a carryover, that we believe can sustain us for about two years. Now, we’re going have to even conserve more, based on this financial blow that the closing of Pinnacle is going to have on our school system, but we’ve worked really hard as a system to have just a small nest egg…we’re not going to go (into) deficit, this year,” she said, adding, “There’s not one finite place that you get to, as a school system, regarding finances and being fiscally conservative. It’s an ongoing programmatic process, and that’s how we approach it.”

In January 2019, Wyoming County residents will vote on the renewal of a 5-year property levy, which has supplemented the county’s school budgets for more than five decades.  Cline said voter approval of the levy’s continuation will be imperative for the future financial viability of many programs currently offered to students.

“It pays for our art programs, it gives students free textbooks at no further expense to taxpayers, activity buses…tutoring, and clubs and band practice, and things that they wouldn’t be able to do,” said Cline.  She also pointed out that the levy’s renewal would insure that no increase in property taxes would occur.

Cline is the first female superintendent of Wyoming County Schools. She is a graduate of Oceana High School, now consolidated with Baileysville High as part of Westside High School, and became assistant principal of Westside High before becoming the principal at Pineville Middle School.  She also is a former classroom educator, having taught English at Oceana and Westside high schools.