Boone school board president resigns

By Daniel Tyson REGISTER-HERALD REPORTER

The president of the Boone County Board of Education abruptly resigned Friday afternoon amid the district’s struggles to slash millions of dollars from its already bare bones budget, the second leader to do so within five months.

Mark Sumpter, 50, signed his resignation letter Friday in the office of Superintendent Jeff Huffman after emailing it earlier in the week.

Sumpter said finding a solution to the district’s financial ills did not lead to his resignation. Instead, a combination of personal and professional events led to his decision, including the passing of his mother, his July wedding and a job promotion requiring him to move to the Huntington area, he said.
He served on the board for 11 years, nearly six of them as president.

The school district must ax millions of dollars from its budget after tax revenues failed to materialize. The school board has voted to slash employees’ pay by up to $4,000, eliminate health and other benefits, reduce school supply stipends and shutter three elementary schools, including the one in Whitesville.

Earlier this month, the district learned property tax estimates were off by at least $1.7 million from a projected $15 million.

“It would just be more of the same,” Sumpter told the Charleston Gazette Mail in regard to the budget. “I’m pretty tough, there’s definitely nothing new there, just different faces … I hate that it’s come to this, but that’s the way it is right now with our reduction in funds.”

The school board has 45 days to vote on Sumpter’s replacement. If they cannot find a suitable replacement, the West Virginia State School Board has the right to appoint a replacement.
Sumpter is the second person in a leadership position to leave the district. Former superintendent John Hudson left Boone County for the same position in Putnam County earlier this year.

The district’s financial situation mirrors Boone County’s finances during falling coal demand. Boone County, one of the state’s leading coal producers, now has only two mines in operation.

Pam White, Boone County’s administrator, said about 70 percent of the county’s tax revenue is funneled to the schools. “It’s been a slow, slow decline in revenue over the last few years,” she said.

That slow decline eventually filters down to the schools. Two years ago, she said, the county collected about $8 million in taxes during its first fiscal quarter. In the first fiscal quarter of this year, which ended the last day of September, the county collected $4.6 million in taxes.