Crook discusses district being on watchlist

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Board of Education announced March 12 that the county’s schools have been placed on the state’s financial watch list.

According the Interim Superintendent Jeffrey Crook, the county has not been on the watchlist before, to his knowledge.

Crook attributes the school disrtict’s recent inclusion on the list to a combination of financial overages and student losses.

In June 2017, the district’s unrestricted general funds were at $4.2 million. In June 2018, the funds were at $1.9 million, a decline of $2.2 million.

“That is largely due to a one-time expense,” said Crook. “The $1.5 million came from the unrestricted general funds for Brooke Middle School’s auxiliary gym.”

In addition, the state recommends the county have carryover funds between 3 percent and 5 percent of the previous year’s budget for emergencies. While Crook noted that the district’s carryover funds are at 6.2 percent, he said that is not as high as it has been in the past, which also impacted the watchlist designation, as did the loss of 105 students from 2017 to 2019.

Each student enrolled in a school adds about $7,400 to the district’s budget.

“This means we aren’t being as funded as much by state aid,” said Crook.

Crook said he cannot say how many students left as a result of the school consolidation that took place in August, which resulted in the county now having one high school, one middle school and four primary-level schools.

“We lost some students from the high school, some from the middle school — there can just be so many reasons, such as programs or parents moving,” said Crook.

The board plans to look at cost-saving measures to get off the list within the year.

“We are going to look at position titles, duplication of services and line items from the offices and the schools,” said Crook.

Crook said getting off the list will take a little bit of time.

“We want to make sure we are doing what we can for the success of our students,” said Crook.