Wager urges levy support

TENNERTON – Superintendent of Schools Roy Wager remembers what it was like to work in Upshur County when there was no levy – and the experience was not one he wants to relive, he said Tuesday.

With less than two months until Upshur County voters will have an opportunity to vote on the levy renewal proposal, Wager continued to urge Upshur County voters to support the levy when they see it on the ballot at their local polling places Feb. 8.

“I have worked in this county long enough to remember not having levies, and to tell you the truth it was not a very fun experience,” Wager said at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, which took place at Buckhannon-Upshur High School. “The students had to buy their own books – so the parents did obviously. They had to buy all the supplies for their children. Teachers did not have many materials in their classroom. And it was pretty tough.

“If I wanted my classroom to be painted in the summertime, I painted it,” Wager continued, “because there was not enough funds for paint and actually we got all our paint for free from the state road department (Department of Highways), so we got a choice of a wonderful state road yellow or a state road green.”

These days, with the help of levy funds, every summer a paint crew travels around to each county school and facility to ensure the walls of classrooms and school buildings are “looking great,” Wager said.

The levy renewal – which would raise $3,346,000 annually beginning July 1, 2014, and ending June 30, 2019 – makes up 9 percent of the school system’s budget. Should it fail, Wager said, board members would face tough questions about how to make up for the deficit.

“Without the levy, we would have to cut 9 percent of what we provide,” he said.

The current five-year levy expires on June 30, 2014, and the superintendent emphasized that the renewal was just that – a renewal.

“This is not a new tax this is a continuation,” Wager stressed.

Should the levy pass, $800,000 would be used annually for instructional programs, supplies and materials and equipment. 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.

Financial Director George Carver reported that the levy ballots have been finalized and sent to the printer for printing.

“We are required to have electronic ballot machines at every polling place, and the electronic ballot was finalized today,” Carver said. “Next week, absentee ballots will be mailed out. Early voting starts in January, and Feb. 8 is going to be here before we know it.”

Board member Tammy Samples asked Carter if the format of the question on the ballot will be “straightforward.”

“Yes,” Carter said, noting that voters will be asked to respond “yes” or “no” to the question of whether they support the levy renewal proposal.

Contact Katie Kuba by email at kkuba@theintermountain.com. Follow her on Twitter at IMT_Kuba.