MASON COUNTY — In November 2012, the Mason County Board of Education (BOE) announced Mason County Schools was no longer in debt, a statement which was recently questioned due to reports from regional media outlets.
Such reports listed several West Virginia school districts, including Mason County, as having deficits which were considered to be critical and who were potentially in danger of being taken over by the West Virginia State Board of Education. During a recent meeting, state board members approved an Executive Summary and Office of Education Performance Audits Brief for County Plans to Eliminate a Financial Deficit, which listed Mason County Schools as having a deficit of $88,234 as of June 30, 2012.
Superintendent Suzanne Dickens stated Mason County Schools is indeed currently out of debt and not in danger of being taken over by the state board of education. Dickens explained why Mason County Schools was considered to still be in debt at this recent meeting, saying the BOE had several ongoing purchase orders for items such as fuel and tires for buses, and since those accounts were ongoing and not closed out at the end of the school year, it was mistakenly counted against them.
Dickens said she had spoken with Deputy Superintendent Charles Heinlein, who told her Mason County Schools was actually used as an example of how to get out of debt and the district was commended for its progress.
According to the West Virginia State Board of Education, Mason County Schools’ deficit status for the past five years was stated as the following: As of June 30, 2008, Mason County Schools had a positive balance of $636,082. As of June 30, 2009, there was a deficit of $2,483,627, and as of June 30, 2010, there was a deficit of $1,237,909. As of June 30, 2011, the summary shows Mason County Schools with a deficit of $1,293,109. Then as of June 30, 2012, the summary shows the deficit of $88,234.
Attempts were made to contact Heinlein to explain why these purchase orders were erroneously counted against Mason County Schools, which were unsuccessful as of press time on Monday.
According to the state board, other counties with critical deficits were Braxton, Calhoun, Monroe, and Preston, and counties which were listed as having casual deficits were Clay, Pendleton, and Webster.
As previously reported, Mason County Schools previously had a deficit of around $2.8 million. At the November meeting where Chief School Business Official/Treasurer Gary Hendricks stated Mason County Schools was out of debt and presented a positive balance of $62,000, it was stated this figure was still pending on an external audit. Dickens also said the BOE planned to release information on the audit when it became available.