WISE — After meeting with the county administrator Monday, the county schools superintendent told his board Tuesday, he expects the budget cut from supervisors "will be much less than the original figure quoted."

That was $1.3 million over this year and next, a number school leaders called devastating to the division.

It can absorb a $400,000 hit to the current year, Superintendent Greg Mullins said, and a much smaller cut in the coming year "is something we can work through."

He reminded the board, however, that he and County Administrator Mike Hatfield "can talk forever." Until supervisors vote, he said, nothing is official.

Wise County Board of Supervisors was meeting past press time Thursday night.

Even with a cut to the current year, "we will be able to meet our obligations," Mullins told the board, including finishing facilities and maintenance projects underway. There were roof and HVAC replacements they had hoped to accomplish but "we're going to have to put that over to next year." Coeburn Middle School and J.W. Adams Combined School in Pound are the affected schools.

Once they know about county funding, they can determine if there's any need to amend their budget, he said, noting he felt "cautiously optimistic" about next year's budget after having talked to Hatfield and some members of the board of supervisors. An amendment could be done at the July meeting, he said.

Mullins said he and Hatfield discussed ways to start the budget process much earlier next year and already are putting together a schedule toward that end.

It will be a lot cleaner next year, he told the board.

In parting board remarks, District 2's John Graham noted they congratulate kids and schools for their accomplishments at every meeting. Students perform at the highest levels and on the least amount of money from the county, he said. "I hope supervisors have some mercy on us and give us a little more money."

Wise County Education Association President Paul Clark said supervisors ought to be there to see and revel in the joy of the accomplishments.

"If they do not see that they need to fund our future, then there's a problem and it's time for them to go," Clark said.

He promised to be at Thursday's supervisors meeting to support the school board.