Editorials 03-13-14

Is minimum wage hike right for West Virginia?

With President Barack Obama advocating a hike in the minimum wage, raises for state governmental employees and teachers, among others, were a hot topic of conversation, debate and decisions over this recently completed West Virginia legislative session.

Upping the federal minimum wage, we editors suspect, will become a reality, for, after all, the recession should be history by the time it goes into effect in the future. We've noticed that there is much discussion of this topic on the internet and media, with a lot of pros and cons being thrown out for argument. Any minimum wage increase, of course, hurts small businesses worse than the big ones, which are used to paying more than the minimum to get qualified workers. Equally true is that it makes a hardship on family owned franchises, which have to make payments to the parent company, based on their sales volume.

In the case of small businesses, the excess amount of money from the current wage to the new minimum one is paid for out of the pockets of the owners' profits. In other words, the owner makes less, therefore making it more difficult for him or her to stay in business.

Probably, this newspaper doesn't take a negative view of Mr. Obama increasing the federal minimum wage, because any business, like ours, depends on the creativity, hard work and efficiency of its employees. In fact, we editors appreciate this team effort that our employees render for their paychecks week after week. Truly, they make the hard and, at times, tense work look easy. At the same time, this business, unlike state government, isn't facing a $90-to-120 million shortfall in income over the next two years.

West Virginia's government, which had been ballyhooed as being so fiscally strong since the start of the 2008 Recession, is now feeling the sharp downturn in revenues that other states have faced in the near past. Now, to remedy the prospective deficit, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has advocated raiding the State's Rainy Day Fund, a treasury of about $900 million to help balance the state's budget.

This fiscal year, approximately $40 million will be needed to help keep the "wolf away from the (state's) door." Since the Rainy Day Fund is meant for disaster relief and other such unforeseen emergencies that means that there will be $40 million less in relief funds available for derecho, wind, snow, tornado, flood, and other natural disaster remediation, not to discount the possibility of industrial giant gaffs, like the tainted water disaster experienced in Charleston and its surrounding region on January 9, 2014.

In the main, and with the state suffering from millions of dollars in financial shortfalls of revenues, this is not the right time for large pay increases for state and governmental employees. Unfortunately, there are no for profit businesses that we editors know of that are able to give pay raises to their employees at this time in Central West Virginia. When the recession, hopefully, comes to an end, it may be more likely that increases in pay may become a possibility. But, for a reality check now, potential pay increases are nil.

David H. Corcoran, Sr., Publisher-Sr. Editor

Congratulations to ... Normantown and Sand Fork Schools!

Recently, parts of the State Dept. of Education's take-over mechanics over Gilmer County's schools were lifted, thereby giving more authority back to the local Board of Education. This positive state action, apparently, happened because the Charleston-based Board, in part, saw some educational progress being made here.

Most significantly, and as reported on page one of the Feb. 26, 2014 issue of this newspaper, the Normantown and Sand Fork elementary schools were given special honors in the Mountain State by becoming designated as "Success Schools" for 2013.

Added to that prestigious award, the Normantown School was singled out and named as a "Reward School," an ultra superior accomplishment, in that only four schools in the whole state attained that lofty recognition.

The plaques that these schools earned to place on their walls from the State Superintendent of Schools' Office aren't sufficient enough praise for the achievements of the students, teachers, parents, principals and volunteers at these schools. After all, these educational accomplishments were established by the "Title 1: Distinguished Schools" project, a national initiative for each state's educators to shoot for. Indeed, as Mr. Ron Blankenship, the Gilmer County Schools' Superintendent, explained with emphasis, "These high accomplishments are the result of a lot of hard work on the parts of the teachers and students ... All of our schools are trying to aspire to these high standards and awards; they are all working hard at it."

In the state's new accountability system, an index is used to grade the schools for student achievement in mathematics, English and Language Arts. Moreover, these standards are set high, as Melanie B. Purkey, executive director of the Office of Federal Programs at the State's Education Office, affirms. "The criteria for these designations are very stringent. These schools are doing an excellent job," she affirms.

In conclusion, the old saying is, "The proof is in the pudding," so the fare given out by the Normantown and Sand Fork schools and their constituencies tastes pretty darn good. Keep up the good work, Gilmer County schools!

Kudos to … Billy Burke, Gilmer farmer extraordinare

Not too many farmers, agricultural administrators and higher ups in the agri-business industry don't know who Billy Burke, a Sand Fork farmer who runs the Titan Farms with his wife, Marge, are. For many years, he's juggled operating his fine farm with many other jobs, notably being an Oil & Gas Industry employee, store owner, a state legislator, a political leader of renown, a US Dept. of Agricultural administrator and a super husband and dad as a family man.

On this past Feb. 24, 2014, Mr. Burke was recognized for about all of his life's accomplishments by the U.S.D.A., when being presented with "Certificates of Commendation" from the top USDA administrator, Brandon Willis, based at the federal agency's Washington, DC headquarters.

In fact, there's not too much more that we editors can praise Billy for, as his presence here has brought many laurels back home to Gilmer County! So, thanks, Billy and Marge, for your efforts on the behalf of all West Virginians for so many years!