Flint: Finances, facilities top priorities

PARKERSBURG – Though he won’t officially begin as Wood County Schools superintendent until July, John Flint said Tuesday’s Wood County Board of Education budget review will be the first step in his new administration.

In an interview Friday, Flint said finances and facilities will be two of his top priorities when he begins as superintendent July 1. The board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the district’s 13th and Plum streets offices to review line-by-line the proposed 2014-15 budget, and Flint said he intends to be part of that process.

The school system has seen an annual decline in state funding which is based off enrollment. As Wood County has lost population, the school system has seen a decrease in enrollment.

“The big elephant in the room right now is the budget,” Flint said. “People want to know how their money is going to be used and where there will be cuts.”

Flint said facilities will be a huge issue for officials this year as the school system struggles to find the balance in maintaining its athletic facilities while ensuring necessary repairs and maintenance on schools and other buildings are not affected. Flint said since athletic facilities do not receive the same kind of funding from the state as do academic facilities, there is a perception money for tracks and courts comes from money which should be used on roofs and parking lots. Officials have estimated roof repairs and replacements alone could cost Wood County Schools more than $15 million.

“We can’t have those kinds of financial issues falling through the cracks,” he said.

Flint also said he plans to meet Monday with members of the Williamstown Elementary School planning committee which is looking at sites for a new school. Flint said the only way to finance such a school is with a bond issue, and right now is not the correct time for a bond.

“Right now there is no bond talk,” he said. “I don’t think you could pass a bond right now.”

Flint said events over the past year, from issues with the construction and renovation project at Parkersburg High School Stadium Field to the isolated but highly-publicized bad behavior of a handful of teachers, have damaged employee morale and cost the district the trust of the community and the respect of its peers.

“We’ve got to get the positive message out. There is a lot of negative noise out there right now,” he said. “I think anytime you have negative noise mixed with financial concerns, those ingredients always lead to a bad situation.

“We have to get the confidence of the public back,” he said. “We’ve got to earn it.”