Every spring our Upshur County Schools Board of Education works out a budget for our next school year that begins on July 1st. My great pleasure is to serve as an elected member of our BOE, including budgeting for the future education needs of our children and grandchildren. This year with COVID-19, every assumption for the future is turned on its head. Former President John F. Kennedy, who was partial to West Virginia, said: “There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race."
Recall that President Kennedy knew how topsy-turvy life is. The West Virginia 1960 Primary Election vote allowed Kennedy the opportunity to elevate to the national stage. He grasped the leadership role, never forgetting West Virginia. His book “Profiles in Courage” inspired my future as a 12-year-old student, and I never forgot the lessons learned.
So, in a budget year when we really do not know when public school classes will resume—as the Coronavirus Pandemic sets our agenda—the idea of catastrophe versus education is our real dichotomy. We operate our budget based on tax dollars available. Since we are sheltering in place, we have no economy. How close we are to catastrophe, we just do not know.
But the fundamentals of our 2020-2021 budget look good. Our Buckhannon, County Seat of Upshur, offers the motto: “The Promises of Tomorrow with the Dignity of Yesterday.” Allow me to highlight where the “promise of tomorrow” lies based on our proposed budget. We are growing our budget conservatively from $36,519,672 to $38,481,839, even as new professional positions are funded by West Virginia Legislation with Governor Jim Justice’s approval. We remain with a balanced budget.
Voters approved a renewal of an excess levy in 2019, which will be in its second year. Those funds are specifically for measures adding excellence to our basic WV budget. This year will allow $3,413,815 for those quality endeavors. Particularly we must offer Summer Education to the tune of $50,000 for students impacted by the virus chaos. And we must continue to keep our older school buildings well maintained to the tune of $1,000,000.
The budget markers for the race between catastrophe versus education are now in place. The course of civilization is the race we will run beginning July 1, 2020. The stakes could not be higher, but I am extremely pleased to have our highly esteemed Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus leading us into the future school year. Education will win the race!