CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the Kanawha County Board of Education are questioning whether they made the right decision to place a revenue cap on the excess levy last year, as they consider budget cuts to prepare for a $4.5 million deficit on the horizon.
Kanawha is the only county in West Virginia with a cap on its excess levy -- a property tax to fund schools beyond the state's school-aid funding formula. The cap prevents the board from collecting more than about $44 million each year to go toward textbooks, construction, salaries and other needs.
"Most of the counties in West Virginia are pulling all these additional revenues and can take that money and move their students forward. We can't. We're capped. We can only take so much, so that limits what we can do," said superintendent Ron Duerring.
The projected $4.5 million deficit for the 2014 budget could grow to $7 million by 2018, according to Duerring.
In a special meeting on Monday, Duerring laid out possible scenarios for cutbacks to recover that funding, but stressed they were merely hypothetical.
Scenarios included forcing schools to pay for their own transportation and extra curricular activities and cutting back on reading mentors, summer classes and other programs that aren't required.
Other suggestions included upping the student-to-teacher ratio and cutting back on maintenance to school buildings and professional development for teachers.
"None of it may get cut, some of it may get cut. We don't know. None of it is written in stone," Duerring said.
But board member Robin Rector said the real issue is the cap on the excess levy, calling it "the elephant in the room" on Monday.
"When we did it that day, there were warnings. We were told that day there could be problems on the horizon," she said.
Board member Becky Jordon said the board might have made the wrong decision when it voted 4-0 last January to give voters the chance to approve a five-year cap on the levy.
"The people did vote, but that's because the board they elected gave it to them because at the time, we thought it was right. Four of us are standing up and saying we might have made a mistake, and we're willing to say maybe we should do something different," Jordon said. "We're the ones that took it to them, and now we're looking at it again."