Upshur County Schools budget for 2020-2021 year balanced at $38.6 million

BUCKHANNON – Budgeting can be an exceedingly complex and difficult task, especially when you oversee budgeting for an entity as large as a school system.

But last week, during an executive session of the Upshur County Board of Education, Finance Director George Carver sat down with My Buckhannon to illuminate and explain the Upshur County Schools budget for the 2020-2021 school year.

The 2020-2021 Upshur County School budget lists estimated revenues and expenditures as $38,661,838 – a balanced budget, which means the revenues match expenditures. Carver said this amount is comparable to the 2019-2020 budget, adding that there are always increases and decreases.

Carver said in the 2019-2020 school year, there were changes to the state aid formula, which is the funding school systems receive from the State of West Virginia.

“In July 2019, there were changes, and that affects the current budget,” Carver explained. “Those are already in place, so this year’s budget is similar to last year’s budget.”

He highlighted some of the major expenditures of the school system, naming personnel costs as the largest.


“The Upshur County School system employs more than 500 full-time professional and service employees,” Carver said. “That takes up about 80 percent of our budget with their salaries, health insurance, retirement and worker’s comp, along with the other benefits we pay. The bulk of that is funded through the state aid formula and the local regular levy funds.”

The next biggest expenditures Carver listed were insurances, including property insurance, workers compensation insurance and liability insurance.

“Those are fairly expensive items,” he said. “Another large expense is fuel for the school buses, as well as utility bills – gas, water and electric. Together, they total about $750,000 per year.”

While the $750,000 may seem like a large expense, Carver said to rest assured school officials have worked diligently over the years to rein in these costs.

“We have taken lots of steps over the years to conserve energy,” he said. “We have replaced lighting and have switched over to LED bulbs in the classrooms and have updated our wiring. Our older elementary schools had the ‘through-the-wall’ style of air conditioning units. In several of our schools, we have replaced them with ‘rooftop systems’ which provide air conditioning and heat.”

As most people would imagine, another large expenditure of the Upshur County school system is textbooks.

“We spend upwards of $600,000 a year on textbooks, depending on which adoption it is,” Carver said. “Some are more expensive than others, and we tend to do math one year, then reading the following year, then social studies. There is about a six-year rotation on the textbook adoptions.”
Everyone was pleased to learn the Upshur County BOE will have one-to-one technology during the 2020-2021 school year. Each student will have their own device or iPad, but this technology is another large expense.

“We have spent a lot of money on technology supplies. Some of that comes out of our general fund – which includes monies from the excess levy,” Carver said. “We also receive other funds from the state which we use for technology equipment.

“Mops and brooms and other cleaning supplies, paper supplies for the schools and soap is another significant expense,” Carver said.

Another part of the Upshur County schools budget is the special revenue fund which has expenditures and revenues balanced at approximately $5,572,315. Carver said this includes grants and awards the school system receives from various sources, including federal grants like Title I, ones for special education and some state grants they receive from time to time. This portion of the budget includes grants that individuals apply for as well.

Carver said the food service program offered through Upshur County schools is part of the special revenue fund expenditures, which is listed at $2,478,506 for the upcoming school year.

“That includes the cooks at the schools and the food for the food service program and other supplies that are needed,” Carver said. “That program is not self-sufficient – we get monies through the National School Lunch Program for the meals we serve, but it is not enough to cover the entire cost of the program, so the county has to put in some funds to make up for the difference. That comes out of our general funds and usually runs between $400,000 and $600,000 annually.”

He said all students in Upshur County Schools eat without any direct cost billed to the families, adding there has been some talk about doing away with the Community Eligibility Options program.

“I am not aware that the elimination of this program is a done deal, but it is something to keep an eye on because if it is removed, we would have to go back to charging parents for meals for their children who do not qualify for free and reduced lunches,” Carver said.

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Carver said he is more optimistic about revenues than he was a few weeks ago.

“It appears life is getting back to normal in some ways,” Carver said. “The unemployment numbers were a great surprise. If you look around Buckhannon, there are ‘help wanted’ signs and new businesses popping up. I am sure we are not done with the pandemic, but as I am listening to experts, they are saying we are getting better at dealing with the pandemic. The treatments for those affected by COVID-19 are improving, and the financial impacts of that are, hopefully, going to be less than we had feared.”

Carver said the state government has seen some decreases in its revenue.

“We have had mid-year budget cuts when the state was in dire financial straits and that could happen again,” he said, “but education is kind of protected in the state budget – they go to other areas to make cuts first before they look at education.”
Locally, Carver said he’s concerned that people may not have the money to pay their property taxes or that businesses which have property and equipment here could go bankrupt and not be able to pay their taxes.

“Eventually, those taxes will be collected, but they could be slower coming in,” he said. “For the month of May, when we received April’s taxes, revenues were down considerably from last year and that worried me. However, when we got taxes from May in June, they were above what we collected last year at the same time, so, it kind of offset the decrease. We are still lower than what I had anticipated.”

As for the current budget year which will end on June 30, 2020, Carver said he is unaware of any variances.

“I think we are going to collect all of the revenues we had budgeted, plus a little more,” Carver said. “That tells me we will probably end the year on the plus side.”

Carver said that in West Virginia, budgeting for school systems is a fairly regulated system compared to other states.

“There is a lot of direction from the state because they provide the bulk of the money and that is not true of a lot of states,” he said. “Most of them are done by local property taxes. So, they pay a lot of attention to how we manage our finances and watch what we are doing. If they see us go off track, they will bring us back to where we need to be. We are very responsible with how we spend the taxpayers’ dollars.”

News Feed

Subscribe to remove popups, or just enjoy this free story and support our local businesses!