A Community in Crisis – Tazewell County Schools May Lose 1.58 Million In Funding

in education •  8 months ago

I’m the longest-serving board member of anybody up here, and I can tell you this is the hardest budget I’ve ever had to work with. – Mike Hymes, Tazewell County Board of Supervisors, 6/5/18

Amid a sea of red shirts, dissenting voices raised in protest of Tazewell County, Virginia, tax increases barely made a splash. “Do whatever it takes to save our education system,” seemed to be the prevailing public sentiment last night at the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors budget hearing. More than thirty "# redfored" educators stepped to the microphone to express outrage, fear for the future of local children, and deep concern about the ways an underfunded school system will negatively impact the entire community.

“Tazewell County Schools offer our best opportunity for economic revitalization,” said Dr. Chris Stacy, Assistant Superintendent of the Tazewell County School System.

This statement, coming on the heels of a harrowing look at the county budget presented by Interim County Administrator Eric Young, seemed to toss down the gauntlet for board members and taxpayers alike. “The Tazewell County Public School System is our largest employer in the county,” educator Mellet Smith said when she took the podium. Shortly afterward, Tazewell High School Principal James McGhee shared that he has recently received four resignations from “high-performing” teachers, all of whom cited fear of being laid off as the reason they had sought employment elsewhere.

In his presentation, Young pointed out that the County Board of Supervisors has worked to buffer residents from the impact of a national economic recession since 2009. “Now we’ve hit a wall,” he said. “We started this year with a twenty-nine-million-dollar gap. There are no reserves left.”

Included in the statistics he shared were details about the recent decline in county revenue. “We spent twenty-nine million more last year than we took in,” he said. “Yet spending was down by one-point-five million.” He attributes the negative trend in part to a marked decline in population – a five percent loss between the years of 2010 and 2016, from 45,000 taxpaying residents to 42,000. “People are moving, not buying cars, paying tax on older cars. There are currently more than a thousand homes for sale in Tazewell County due to reassessment.”

He also pointed out that the decline in coal economy accelerated sharply from 2015-2016. This not only resulted in the loss of employment for workers, but the reduction in revenue from mineral rights and associated taxation. Additionally, median household income for Tazewell County is $38,000 per year, ranking it 11th from the bottom statewide. Median home value in Tazewell County is $94,000, while the average median home value across Virginia is $248,000. “They have two-point-five times the assets to tax,” Young said.

Budget cuts will hit other county departments, as well. The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office is slated to lose $150,000 of their annual budget. Tazewell County Administration is set for a $740,000 cut. The library loses $94,000, and the IDA (Industrial Development Authority) is looking at a whopping 66% cut of their annual funding.

Young does offer some hope for a gradual turnaround in local economy. “Recreational tourism is increasing,” he said. “And the Jonah Project is still on the hook.” He disclosed that the fish farm (Jonah Project) is still under evaluation as a means of providing 100-150 jobs in the county within three years. He also discussed a potential 1.8 million dollars in revenue that could be generated by construction of a hydro-electric plant in the community.

During public comments, the Board heard from several residents who felt that property tax increases and the automobile licensing fee (decal) of $10.00 per year would create undue hardship for them. One homeowner stated that he’d seen an increase in property assessment of $33,000. Another homeowner said the appraisal value of his home had increased by approximately $24,000. The Bluestone Business and Technology center was deemed a “failure” and waste of money by Steve Davis, former school board member. He encouraged the county and its taxpaying residents to take a closer look at how the budget issues became so critical in the first place. Several people expressed concern about the empty building in Bluestone, but according to Young, that building was fully funded by VCEDA (Virginia Coalfield Economic Development) and had never been a taxpayer liability.

The Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2018/2019 can’t be voted or approved until seven days after the hearing. Board Members speculated that such a vote likely wouldn’t take place before June 20, 2018, and if passed, it would not be adopted until June 28, 2018.

Charles Stacy, Eastern District Supervisor, was clearly impressed by the # redfored turnout. He offered to personally pay for a chartered bus to take those educators to Richmond so they could make their voices heard at the state level. "We are insignificant in Richmond," he stated, pointing out that Southwest Virginia is underrepresented there among lawmakers. He stressed that state and federal funding could eliminate the crisis now and in the future for Tazewell County Public Schools. Otherwise, "we can size it down or tax it up," he said. "Those are our options."

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It always amazes me that they sit there and tell obvious lies, that are NEVER contradicted during these meetings. While people sitting next to them and in the audience KNOW that they are lying. This bluestone thing is one huge sham. There are grants for many things, that doesnt mean the grant doesnt come with conditions.

The budget for a new garage and shelter put aside every year for around a decade. I believe they are working on the shelter now, but the garages likely will never happen. Leasing the only landfill we have in the county for millions, not caring that the private company will fill it up in a matter of years. This will hinder the county providing trash service, and taxes will go up shipping it out of the county.

There is so much mis-management its shocking an audit hasn't wrecked them yet. Things are getting super obvious.

I think that raven could be closed and those children added to Richlands Elem and Cedar Bluff. Abbs valley is way out in the boonies, and it could cost a bit moving children to tazewell or bluefield...

We need our funding. It is also time for the school board to make some difficult decisions, and that includes closing two or three elementary schools. It is time.


That is about the only thing there is to do. I mean there are barely enough teachers. The teachers they do have are underpayed and overworked.


Sadly, I think this is a truth that everyone will just have to accept.

You know, I see this, and I see an opportunity for an enterprising group of people to ask for tax credits for establishing privately-funded schools to fill in the gaps and offer a better educational program.

If I could secure the funding to do it, I'd be there in a heartbeat. I've always wanted to focus my time and effort on education.


That would be absolutely amazing.


Long-term goals are already in the making :D


Music to my ears.


I still think we have a horrible method of education, nationwide. But here--in this hole in the wall...things tend to be worse. The amount of people who believe "what" is spelled "wat" and have graduated high school is terrifying. (and no--they write it that way too, its not just social media)

People around here get offended when I relay the information about Finland and the leaps they have made.

Ouch, @rhondak, this is terrible news. Wealth realignments have been happening as long as there was history. It's never pleasant for those being realigned upon. Your part of the country had a bad deal for a long time.


Indeed it has. Unfortunately, I think a great deal of the problems here were self-inflicted. :-(


Conservatives, huh?


thank you very much for always contributing to the community with all your articles, congratulations @rhondak

Oh my God. Holy heck. This is insane. Geez :/ I hope everything works out at the State hearing (assuming it happens?).

We must keep the school system afloat in any way, thanks Pro Share this publication and teach us the problems that are experienced in different states

There were promises made, false hopes given.....that the Coal Industry would be revitalized
I hope one day the people wake up that the grand political spectrum are lying sacks of shit,
pardon my anger.........while the rich get richer many suffer and you see the same pathologically sociopathic crap on here too