10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Manchin wants more time to review state agency’s budget

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The new secretary of the state Department of Education and Arts is asking lawmakers for more time to identify additional ways to reduce costs within the department’s six agencies.

Since taking over earlier this year, Secretary Gayle Manchin said personnel restructuring and reductions, operational reorganizations and planned consolidations of office space have resulted in a projected savings of $1.1 million for the coming 2018 Fiscal Year.

Gayle Manchin

“My request is that we be provided the opportunity to continue an ongoing consolidation and sharing of functions that can result in increased efficiencies,” Manchin told members of the House Finance Committee during a Wednesday budget hearing.

Joining her were representatives from the agencies within the Department of Education and the Arts: the Center for Professional Development, the Division of Culture and History, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the Library Commission, Division of Rehabilitation Services and Volunteer West Virginia.

Governor Jim Justice’s first proposed budget included a $4.6 million cut to the Educational Broadcasting Authority, which is West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and reduced the Division of Culture and History’s budget by $4.3 million.

Scott Finn, executive director and CEO of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, told House Finance members Wednesday such cuts would be detrimental to operations putting the Mountain State in danger of being the first to lose public broadcasting.

In anticipation of reductions, Finn said 20 positions, including five that are currently vacant, would be eliminated before the close of March.

As for the future, “There are lots of other options,” Finn told lawmakers, citing the potential for university or nonprofit licensees. He asked more time to explore such options and implement a stable transition if West Virginia opted out of public broadcasting.

Later in the meeting, Randall Reid-Smith, the commissioner of the Division of Culture and History, defended his division’s work.

“We are a model of how state government should run,” he said, pointing out that most of Justice’s proposed reductions to Culture and History would be to lottery-funded programs.

“Those with which you are most familiar are your fairs and festivals funding. That’s $1.6 million and these funds that go directly to your constituents and that’s 450 fairs throughout the state,” Reid-Smith reported.

“Though a smaller cut is proposed in our general revenue, we have further analyzed where we can further reduce our operating costs by downsizing our agency.”

In the coming months, the department secretary’s office and the Center for Professional Development will be moving into Division of Culture and History space to save on office costs, Manchin said. The West Virginia Library Commission is already located there.

Volunteer West Virginia will be shifting into office space within the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Building to reduce lease costs as well.

“In addition to overseeing the six agencies which are no longer silos now, but each integrally contributing to one another, they are — again — looking at how they can share, not only space, but personnel,” she said.

Overall, she said the department’s budget has been reduced by more than eight percent.

“My CFO, who I share with Culture and History, and my staff have been diligently working to peel back the layers of past budgets and expenses and grants and how they are administered and how they are monitored, trying to get a general understanding of the process that has been used up until this point,” Manchin said.

“I can tell you, it is a work in progress.”

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