CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Cedar Lakes Conference Center in Ripley could fall victim to funding cuts under a recent budget proposal from the state Department of Education.
Earlier this year, the State Budget Office asked agencies to begin submitting their appropriation requests for the 2015 fiscal year. Agencies were asked to prepare one request that left funding in-line with that of the current year, and another that included 7.5 percent cut in agency spending.
Most state agencies already had to absorb similar 7.5 percent cuts for the current year to help fund spending growth in the state's Medicaid program. With revenue continuing to remain tight, further cuts may be required.
In order to meet the 7.5 percent cut for next year, the Department of Education is considering eliminating most funding for Cedar Lakes.
The nearly 400-acre facility located just outside of Ripley was created by the Legislature in 1949 as the state's site for the Future Farmers and Future Homemakers of America, which is under the state Department of Education. Using land donated by residents of Jackson County, the facility is also the annual home of the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair.
To meet the 7.5 percent budget cut recommendation, the department is considering laying off the conference center's 35-employee full-time staff and cutting other expenses in order to save about $917,000 over the next year.
Liza Cordeiro, spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said state education officials were faced with tough decisions over the coming year. She said they made an effort to give priority to expenses that went directly into the classroom.
"We took a hard look at what areas that directly impact students in their classrooms every day, and we worked hard not to cut those funds," she said.
Cedar Lakes, however, did not fall into that category.
While the department is proposing staff cuts, it is not planning to completely close the facility.
The department plan would still call for regular maintenance and upkeep of the facilities, which would cost about $147,000 over the next year.
Closing, selling or removing Cedar Lakes from the Department of Education's oversight has long been considered at the statehouse, though no action has ever been taken.