CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Board of Education is cracking down on several county school systems facing major financial struggles, fearing more state takeovers on the horizon.
"The problem is when the adults get it wrong, the kids are the ones who suffer," said board member Lloyd Jackson. "Ultimately, this hurts everyone."
Braxton, Calhoun, Mason, Monroe and Preston counties have budget deficits considered critical by state code, while Clay, Pendleton and Webster counties are experiencing more "casual" deficits.
State board members voted unanimously at a regular meeting on Wednesday to approve strategic plans to eliminate those deficits, saying financial problems are signs of greater issues to come.
The state has already taken over control of four county school systems, with two also operating under conditional approval status.
"This is the number-one symptom of counties you have to take over. You've got to catch these things quickly because if you let them get out of control, get ready to take them over because this is where it starts," Jackson said.
As of June, Preston County was $2.4 million in the red, while Clay and Calhoun counties had deficits of more than half a million.
At the Department of Education's request, each county board has submitted a detailed action plan with ways they have cut down on spending and plan to continue saving money.
The state's intervention will continue to increase in county school systems that face financial hardships, as state officials will perform monthly analyses and provide recommendations about how to reduce expenditures, according to Joe Panetta, superintendent of finance for the Department of Education.
"We are taking a more active role in providing assistance and monitoring counties' financial status," he said. "These are things we haven't required in the past."