(10/03/2011)
Wirt County voters will decide in the upcoming election whether to renew a 50-year standing operating levy for the local schools.

The proposed five year levy would raise $736,314 per year for the school system, totaling 3,681,570 for the five years.

Superintendent Dan Metz said the levy provides things for students such as trips, newer buses, and fuel and maintenance for the buses. He said in schools that do not have a levy, the parents have to pay for the extra things for students such as extracurricular trips.

And he said that if the voters defeat the levy this year, the parents would probably end up paying a lot more to provide things for the students that are currently paid for by the levy.

He stressed that renewing the school levy will not increase taxes. They will remain, if the levy passes, as 20.66 cents per $100 of assessed value in Class I, 41.32 cents per $100 in Class II and 82.64 cents per $100 in Classes III and IV.

The proposed levy is a 90 percent levy, which means that the proposed rates are 90 percent of the maximum allowed by state law.

Metz said that the school could levy for 100 percent, but 90 percent is sufficient to meet the school system's needs.

He said that the Board has protected the taxpayers in case of a large building boom or if a large factory comes in, or if assessment values increase, by putting a 4 percent cap on the levy.

Board Treasurer Karen Cummings explained that if assessed valuations increase, the amount of taxes taken for the levy will not be any greater than 4 percent of what was paid in the previous year. If these assessments would cause an increase of 4 percent or more in the total projected property tax revenues, the Board would reduce the levy rate for all classes of property for the forthcoming tax year.

Metz said the levy provides 6 percent of the Board of Education's total budget.

The expenditures in the proposed levy include $325,939 for improvements to facilities, custodial supplies, building insurance and utilities, to improve or correct environmental and/or structural deficiencies in the schools and grounds, and to ensure protection against fire and health hazards.

Of this amount, $215,939 is for utilities for facilities $60,000 for custodial supplies and equipment, and $15,000 for property/building insurance.

The levy also provides $152,375 to supplement local salaries, with each teacher receiving $1,250 per year and non-teaching employees receiving $1,000. Metz said that this has not changed from the last levy. He said all of the school employees, except the superintendent, receive this supplement.

The levy also allows for $120,000 to continue support for extracurricular programs by paying extracurricular salaries that include athletics, band and student travel and insurance, and $50,000 for maintaining and improving the school's transportation system.

The school board must pay 10 percent of the transportation costs that are not provided through the school aid formula. Transportation costs include the purchase, maintenance, and fuel for buses and insurance for the bus fleet.

The levy expenditures also include $70,000 free textbooks, instructional supplies and instructional equipment as well as $18,000 for financial support to community organizations that provide services to the schools.

These include the Dora B. Woodyard Memorial Library and the WVU 4-H Extension Program. The Library will receive $10,000 and the WVU Extension Program $8,000, which is a $3,000 and a $1,000 increase respectively, in funding from the last levy passed in 2006.

Metz said that if there are any groups, civil organizations and/or churches that would like the Board of Education Office administrative personnel to attend their meeting to talk to them about the levy, they just need to call the office at 275-4279.

If the levy passes, it will be in effect for fiscal years beginning July 1, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. The last levy passes with a 71.4 percent passage rate; it requires a 50 percent passage rate.

"If the levy is defeated it will be difficult to operate, but we will because we have to," Metz said.

He said that the levy is not a luxury, but a necessity to provide services to the students.

"The levy is truly about the kids and what we do for the kids," Metz said.


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