Devono offers details on Randolph County levy proposal

The Inter-Mountain photo by Tim MacVean Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Gabriel ‘Gabe’ Devono discusses the upcoming school levy — which will be on the ballot during a special March election — during a recent Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Lunch event.

ELKINS — The Randolph County Superintendent of Schools wants the public to know the facts about the proposed levy for the county’s school system.

During a recent Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce pre-session Legislative Lunch, attendees heard about the upcoming school levy, which will be on the ballot during a special March election.

Superintendent Gabriel “Gabe” Devono said local schools have received nearly $10 million in funding through grants with the West Virginia School Building Authority since September 2017.

“I wanted to tell you a little bit about what we have done as a board of education with the board that we have in service now,” he said. “We’ve brought in pretty close to $9.6 million in Randolph County school systems, and that’s thanks to the SBA — we have been friends with the SBA and granted grants.”

Devono went on to explain what projects that funding has been used toward, to date.

“The $9.6 million we brought into the county — we went to Harman Elementary, upgraded the electrical system there and put heating/air conditioning in all the classrooms, and heating/air conditioning in the gym,” he explained. “In Coalton, we put all new electrical upgrades there, we put in new heating/air conditioning in all their classrooms and also the gym. Up the valley at George Ward Elementary, we put six brand new classrooms up there for our kids to be into a new situation and new classes there.

“We also re-did all of Beverly School inside. We put new lighting, new electrical systems, new heating/air conditioning in all their classrooms and gym, and we put a brand new cafeteria in at Beverly to take the kids from eating in the gym at lunch and eating in a brand new cafeteria,” Devono continued. “We put in a new kitchen at Beverly and we also put in two brand new classes for our pre-school kids.”

He said in December, officials received another grant that will be used at Elkins High School to re-do the entire roof and put air conditioning in the gymnasium.

He added officials began looking at the possibility of a levy to help with these and future projects at the schools.

“What we did is started looking for a levy that we are putting together. It’s March 9 that we are going to vote on the levy,” Devono said. “What we did, we took four things in the levy that we looked at. First, we looked at our students and the ideas we want to do. Second, we looked at what facilities we had to do. Third, we looked at the community and what we can do for the community through education with this. Lastly, we looked at economic development. If we do get the levy and we do produce what we’ve got can we bring companies in, can we bring more people in?”

Devono said, if the levy passes, officials also hope to put new turf on sporting fields and offer free admission to games for seniors.

“We will have a good playing field for athletics and when people come in to look at the hospital or the college, they will see our facilities are upgraded instead of looking at the other counties and going to their school systems,” he said.

He said another major hope is increasing student safety by upgrading to a “gun alarm system.”

“The first thing we looked at with the levy is school safety, supplies for our kids and technology for our students. We put a paramount amount of money into that line item because of our kids and safety for our kids,” he said. “There are some new upgrades in safety we are looking at. There is one company that if a student or parent comes with a gun and tries to get into the school, an alarm will go off. That’s a new system coming out.”

He closed by saying he hopes the community will support the levy.

“These are the things in the levy that we have. We hope that you all do support the levy and vote for the levy on March 9,” Devono said. “We are going to try to have community meetings. … We need you, the community, to form a better support system than we have and are at the point we need you as a community and the students also need you as a community.”

He urged anyone with questions to call or stop by the Randolph County Board of Education office.

The total amount for the proposed five-year levy would be $16,150,685 — or $3,230,137 annually — beginning July 1, 2019 through July 1, 2023.

According to language in the proposed levy, $1 million would be used to make upgrades to facilities including the installation of turf at Tygarts Valley Middle-High School football and baseball fields, turf and bleachers at Wimer Stadium, turf at the Elkins Middle School softball field and turf at the Elkins High School baseball and soccer fields.

Devono noted at a recent board of education meeting that these updates will not only benefit Randolph County Schools athletic teams but also youth organizations who are able to use the facilities.

In addition, $900,000 would be set aside for school safety and student instructional materials — including the purchase of new textbooks and the purchase of and upgrades to technology hardware and software, as well as instructional materials to support band, music, and theater programs, according to the levy.

Furthermore, funding in the amount of $500,000 will be allotted to supporting the hiring of new professional staff and providing salary and state benefits to those staff to increase the teacher to student ratios, according to the levy.

Funds in the amount of $520,137 will be used for maintenance and upgrades to facilities including the completion of a new gymnasium at TVMHS.

Funds in the amount of $100,000 will be used to provide students, Randolph County Schools employees and senior citizens, ages 60 and over, to attend athletic activities in the county, according to the levy.

Funds in the amount of $180,000 annually will be used to provide support to extra-curricular activities for students, including transportation to these activities.

Finally, $30,000 will be used to provide funding to supplement the budget of the public libraries within Randolph County and the West Virginia University Extension Service to provide continuing 4-H programming.

If approved by voters in March, an additional levy of 8.24 cents on Class I property, 16.48 cents on Class II property, 32.96 cents on Class III property and 32.96 cents on Class IV property will be assessed for every $100 assessed property valuation.