Boone County Schools bailout bill passes state Senate

By Matt Maccaro in News
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill allocating $2.1 million to the Boone County school system so it can meet all its financial obligations for the 2015-2016 school year was advanced by the Senate to the House of Delegates Monday.

The county has been hurt by the downtown of the coal industry, in particular the the bankruptcy filing of Alpha Natural Resources, which owns several large mining operations in Boone County.

“We do now know that you can become fiscally inept and have a slidedown real quick,” said Sen. Art Kirkendoll (D-Logan). “I think this is walking into a situation where you’re giving somebody an opportunity that has given this state a lot.”

Sen. Craig Blair (R-Berkeley) echoed Kirkendoll’s support, pointing out that during coal’s boom Boone County had helped the Eastern Panhandle.

“When I was growing up in the Eastern Panhandle, and I went to school, we were agrarian. I can assure you that corn and apples didn’t the pay the way,” he said. “The coal went a long ways to being able to help out. We know this is the right thing to do.”

A provision in state code allows school systems to receive supplemental appropriations in a case where that county isn’t able to collect property taxes because of court proceedings. Kirkendoll explained that the allocation wasn’t some sort of gift.

“It’s not a bailout. To me, it’s a support system for saying thank you to a county. We’re going to give you an opportunity to fix this. We’re not bailing you out; we’re giving you a loan and an opportunity.”

Outgoing county superintendent John Hudson had previously requested the funding, maintaining it was necessary for the district to get through June.

The bill will be before the House on Tuesday on what is expected to be the final day of the special budget session.