During this week of endorsements, The Inter-Mountain wants to take a moment to advocate on behalf of local children. These underage citizens are unable to vote in the upcoming general election, yet there are three ballot issues in two area counties that could greatly impact their future. We believe these measures have merit.
In Randolph County, there is a $13.5 million bond call voters must decide. If approved, that money will be used in conjunction with a $9,222,838 request to the state School Building Authority for additional resources. The SBA grant and the bond call will be contingent upon one another.
The total cost of the community schools projects, including the SBA funds and cost of bond issuance, is $22,722,838. Key upgrades to the schools will include: HVAC and electrical upgrades; safety and disability access improvements; a new gym at Tygarts Valley High School and renovation to the middle school area; a new cafeteria and music room at Harman School; a new cafeteria at Beverly Elementary; and installation of air conditioning in Elkins High School's gym.
Again, these projects are ones that will not only improve the quality of the educational environment for students, but also will create a positive ripple effect within the communities these schools serve.
As in Randolph, Barbour County school officials also are seeking voters' assistance in the general election. There, both a bond call and excess levy will appear as separate ballot issues. It is possible for voters to approve one, both or neither of the initiatives.
The bond would raise $5,480,000 over 10 years and provide funding for improvements to the athletic complex at Philip-Barbour High School. The excess levy would raise $2,191,456 per year for five years. It would help to fund the purchase of educational materials, maintenance of school facilities and much more across the county.
Of those two measures, the excess levy appears to be the most critical. It's been reported the school board may have to close Mount Vernon and Volga-Century elementary schools if the levy fails. While those two schools both are below maximum enrollment capacity, they provide a vital service. If the schools are closed, children could be faced with long bus commutes to alternate education facilities. No one wins there.
In summary, there are some tough choices come Nov. 6. At first glance, voters may see the value in all of the above initiatives, but they likely also are concerned about the financial impact a "Yes" vote may bring to their taxes.
In this economy, those concerns are understandable. We're sure the school superintendents in both counties would have preferred to put forth these measures when market conditions were a bit improved.
The challenge, though, is they don't have the luxury of time. These projects and our children can't always wait. Delaying needed repairs or upgrades can be a costly gamble, one that results in taxpayers paying even more in the long-run for the same or lesser improvements.
We hope voters in the respective counties won't take that risky path and will vote "Yes" on Election Day.