Levy renewal would not raise taxes

The proposed five-year levy renewal for Upshur County schools, which would raise $3,346,000 annually, would not raise taxes for county citizens, Upshur County Superintendent Roy Wager and Board of Education members stressed Tuesday.

It is a point they have continued to make throughout multiple discussions about the levy at previous board meetings. The levy renewal proposal will be on the ballot for voting by county citizens on Feb. 8. The current five-year levy expires at the end of June.

“This is not a new tax,” financial director George Carver said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “This is a continuation of the existing levy. If you want to see what your taxes are going to be, just look at your last tax bill. They will be they same.”

Although taxes will not be affected with the renewal, board representatives discussed what the levy could offer. An annual $50,000 would help all Upshur County students gain free admittance to sporting events and other school activities with a school identification card.

“Sports is an outlet for the (students),” school board president Teresa Bellamy said. “It teaches them life skills.”

Residents over the age of 60 may request a similar identification card from the school system for free admission as well, if the levy passes. The levy renewal also affords accident insurance to students which could help if a student is injured at school.

“This levy makes all the difference,” board member Greenbrier Almond said.

The levy renewal also proposes to raise $200,000 annually to pay for crossing guards, prevention resource officers, technology services and athletic trainers. The Prevention Resource Officer program is not new, but Wager said that with every passing year, school boards are expected to pay more into the grant-funded program.

Part of the money raised by the levy would help offset the amount the school board no longer receives for the PRO program through a grant. Wager said the school board is very interested in keeping the program, and that it has made a difference at Buckhannon-Upshur High School and Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School.

The current levy supports many of the same items that appear on the renewal levy proposal.

“I don’t think we realize all the technology that we’ve been able to buy through the levy,” Wager said, adding that teachers in other counties without levies have to share a single computer.

The levy also would support school renovations and safety improvements. It would help fund substitute employees, extracurricular activities and more.

“We get textbook money from the state, but never enough,” Wager said. “We have to constantly buy new textbooks to replace some of the worn-out ones, to get the new ones that are adopted in that school year, and it’s a lot of money to buy all of those.”

Wager said the levy raises about $800,000 annually for textbooks and supplies like pencils, pens and paper. That same amount also pays for library books, summer school and alternative education programs.

“I think it’s very important to be able to offer that,” Wager said.