Levy renewal will not raise taxes

The proposed five-year levy renewal for Upshur County schools would not raise taxes for Upshur County citizens, board of education members continued to emphasize Tuesday as they convened at Union Elementary School.

The levy renewal proposal, which Upshur County residents will see on the ballot Feb. 8, 2014, would raise just over $3.3 million dollars, or $3,346,000 annually beginning July 1, 2014, and ending June 30, 2019. The current five-year levy expires on June 30, 2014.

“This is a continuation of the current five-year levy we have,” Upshur County Superintendent Roy Wager said at the evening board of education meeting. “This school (Union Elementary) is probably a prime example of what levy funds can do for us.

“I can’t believe this building is 25 years old,” Wager continued, crediting both the efforts of diligent custodians and money from the levy for its appearance. “Without the levy funds we have to maintain these buildings and replace things as they wear out, we’d probably not be too happy with the buildings.”

Wager provided a breakdown of how and why the money would be spent. He said $800,000 would be used annually for instructional programs, supplies and materials and equipment.

“We’d also like to have $450,000 annually to continue upgrades and have more technology for our schools and improved access to technology,” Wager said. That chunk of money would be used in the purchase of hardware, software, infrastructure and training, the superintendent said, adding that the board wants to add several technology integration specialist positions.

Should the levy renewal pass, about $1 million would be put toward capital improvements and preventive maintenance; $500,000 would pay the salaries of substitute teachers; $346,000 would be spent on extracurricular activities; and $200,000 would be allocated for contracted services, such as crossing guards, prevention resource officers at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and Buckhannon-Upshur High School, athletic trainers and technology services.

Another $50,000 would support student-related community services. These levy funds would provide for free admission to regular school extracurricular events for all students enrolled in Upshur County schools, Wager said. Any Upshur County resident age 60 or over would likewise gain free admission to all regular school extracurricular activities in the county with a specially issued pass.

“That way we keep the community involved,” Wager said.

“We’re not asking for any other new taxes,” he said of the levy renewal. “What you pay now is what you would continue to pay.”

Board member Greenbrier Almond said he’d heard people in the community talking about a “40 percent levy” and a “100 percent levy.”

“What do people mean by that?” he asked.

Financial Director George Carver said those percentages were references to what proportion of the maximum levy rate allowed by the state a county opts to utilize.

“Our levy is about 50 percent of the rate allowed at the state level,” Carver said. “Some counties, like Harrison County, have 100-percent levies.”

Wager said he believed Upshur County’s levy was actually 42.7 percent of what the state of West Virginia allows.

Board member Tammy Samples asked Wager and Carver to provide “the exact number” at a future meeting for the board’s reference.