Upshur County Schools Financial Director Jeffrey Perkins and superintendent of schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus speak about the upcoming excess levy at the Aug. 18 Buckhannon City Council meeting. Buckhannon City Council members voiced their support of the levy during their recent meeting. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

City council expresses support for levy renewal, which voters will consider in the November General Election

BUCKHANNON – During the recent Buckhannon City Council meeting, members of the council stated they were in favor of the upcoming Upshur County Schools Excess Levy renewal which will run on the general election ballot Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

Several council members discussed the possibility of city council drafting a resolution in support of the levy, but they decided to do that closer to the time of the election.

Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus and Financial Director Jeffrey Perkins spoke before council, explaining what the funds raised by the excess levy would be used to fund. Stankus said that levies are for learning and bonds are for buildings and reminded folks that this is a renewal of the levy and said voting for the levy would not raise taxes. She said the vote would be on the general election ballot due to a change in West Virginia state code mandating the levy elections be included in the primary or general elections.

“Counties are no longer allowed to put levies and bonds on a special election,” Stankus shared, adding it saves funds since they do not have to run a special election. “The challenge is we have to run the vote sooner for our voters to consider.”

Perkins said the current school levy will expire at the end of the 2024 fiscal year. (You can ready more about why the levy renewal will appear on the November General Election ballot here.)

“We realize this is 2022, so folks need to understand levies are for five years and elections are every four years,” Perkins said. “Every other cycle, it will appear we are two years ahead of the proposed date of our levy, but the state Legislature changed the vote as a cost-savings measure that will allow elections to be more centralized and less frequent.”

Stankus said levies provide support for things like instructional materials, technology, capital improvement, contracted services, PRO officers, tech services and extracurricular bus trips.

“Right now, our sports teams do not have to raise the extra money to pay for their sports trips,” Stankus said. “If we did not have the levy, that could be different. The levy provides funds for our community library; we give them $100,000 each year. The 4-H Program, the [WVU] Extension Office and the Stockert Youth (and Community) Center – those community organizations that are so important to us – as well as our students and our community all receive support from the levy.”

“Our community takes care of our children, and I am really proud of the way Upshur County loves their children,” she added.

Perkins said the levy helps with some personnel costs.

“This is how we pay for coaches and how we pay for tutoring,” Perkins said. “We have extended contracts where employees can work extra hours in supporting our children and this helps pay for those. It pays for accident insurance for our students. It pays for our substitute teachers.”

Perkins said this would be the fourth renewal of the levy.

“It is the same levy at the same rate for the last 20 years,” Perkins said. “We are really hoping the citizens will realize the value this brings to our community. It will not raise your taxes – it is at the same rate it has been since 1999.”

Mayor Robbie Skinner said when he was in elementary school, there was no levy.

“At Academy Elementary and the Intermediate Schools, our moms had to come to the classrooms, pick up the one textbook each classroom had, take it to the library, and run copies for every student to be able to take home the excerpt so we could do our homework that night and problems in math,” Skinner said. “That was taxing on our parents and to the teachers. The students had to look at very poorly copied pictures which were in color in the textbooks and try to read when the lettering sometimes blurred.”

Skinner said he feels it is critically important that voters pass the excess school levy so kids can have the very best.

“Why would we want to send our kids to school here when their neighboring county counterparts in Lewis, Randolph and other counties have the supplies they need?” Skinner asked. “I hope our community will continue to see the value and love our kids enough to make sure they go to school with what they need. I certainly support this, and I know our council supports the levy, too, 100 percent. We need to do this for our kids.”

Councilman David McCauley said in 2019, the council drafted a resolution in favor of the Upshur County Schools’ Excess Levy, and he would like for council to do it again.

“Historically, when levies were failing across the country, the city folks still supported the levies,” McCauley said. “It is important to get the word out. I would encourage us to show our support for the levy.”

“Let’s revisit that during our first meeting in October,” Skinner said. “That will make it timely. I agree with you we need to support this.”

“We will do everything we can to support the levy,” city recorder Randy Sanders said.

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