MADISON, W.Va. — The decline of the West Virginia coal industry is being felt in all sectors.  State leaders are working to fill budget holes created by a sharp decline in coal severance tax revenue, but the impact is most magnified in the coalfield counties.

Boone County School Superintendent John Hudson announced this week he would recommend the cutting of 77 positions in the county school system in the coming year. Among the positions to be cut are 60 teachers or administrators and 17 service personnel.

“September 2014, for that month alone, our district received just over $8 Million in tax collections,” Hudson explained. “During that same time period, September 2015 we received just a little over $4 Million.”

The revenue losses are only part of the story in Boone County where coal mining or jobs tied to the coal industry have long been the county’s biggest employer.  The county is experiencing an unprecedented decline in enrollment.  Hudson said the rate of decline is staggering.

“Between December 1st and January 6th, according to our estimates, we lost 65 students,” said Hudson. “We believe a large part of that is related to a downturn in the coal industry and those persons and families seeking employment elsewhere.”

For now, there’s no end in sight.  Hudson will recommend the cuts to the county’s board of education later this morning and personnel hearings are slated for the last week of February to formally discuss the job cuts.   Hudson stressed they will be cuts — positions will be eliminated.  No longer can they hope to lessen the blow with natural attrition like retirements.

“That cannot happen, we’ve already seen most of our retirements,” he said. “Unfortunately, many of these positions and the majority of these people will not have jobs next year.”

So, the exodus will likely continue as out of work teachers head out of the county on Corridor G right behind the laid of coal miners.  Cuts to staff and faculty will only go so far. Three elementary schools have already been approved for closure next year and a consolidation plan is in place.  It’s likely more of that could be coming in the years ahead unless there is a turn in the region’s economy.  Right now, few can see anything that optimistic on the horizon.

Hudson said he didn’t like delivering the news, but has tried to be as personal and honest as he can with all affected.

“We don’t just deliver letters, we actually meet with those employees.  I want to meet with them face too face,” said Hudson. “They are very important to our system. It’s just a sad day when this has to occur.”