Harrison: ‘Our students will suffer’ if proposed levy continuation does not pass

FRENCH CREEK – When Upshur County voters take to the polls during the General Election on Nov. 9, 2022, they will be taking up the issue of continuing the Upshur County Schools excess levy. The levy has been in place since 1999.

The continuation of the levy will not cause a rise in taxpayer fees because it is a continuation and is at the same rate it has been since 1999.

The Upshur County Schools Excess Levy generates approximately $3,248,000 per year and those funds constitute approximately 9 to 10 percent of the yearly budget for the Upshur County School system. The purposes for which additional funds are needed to maintain and improve instructional programs and the operation of school services include, but are not limited to:

  • $450,000 for textbooks, library books, essential school materials and equipment;
  • $75,000 for summer school;
  • $175,000 for alternative education programs, transitional school, options pathways and virtual school;
  • $300,000 for purchases or lease of hardware, software, infrastructure and training;
  • $50,000 to maintain, upgrade and connect to WVEIS;
  • $50,000 to provide technology specialists and services to expand, maintain and improve the use of technology;
  • $200,000 for safety and security improvements;
  • $400,000 for general maintenance including materials, roofs, heating, air conditioning, flooring, windows, doors and painting;
  • $450,000 for substitute employees;
  • $348,000 for extracurricular activities and extended employee agreements;
  • $75,000 for Prevention Resource Officers;
  • $75,000 for athletic trainers;
  • $100,000 for bus expenses extracurricular and field trips;
  • $15,000 for free Upshur County students admission to extracurricular events;
  • $10,000 for free admission to extracurricular events for Upshur County residents 60 years of age and older;
  • $5,000 to provide free admission to extracurricular activities for Upshur County active service and veteran military residents;
  • $20,000 for student accident insurance for all Upshur County students;
  • $25,000 for community support for the Upshur County Public Library, 4-H and Extension Office and the Stockert Youth Center;
  • And $25,000 to provide annual passes for students and families to attend the Upshur County Recreational Park and the W.Va. Wildlife Center.

During the Oct. 11 Upshur County Excess Levy Continuation question-and-answer session at French Creek Elementary School, Upshur County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison said the Upshur County community has been “wonderful” and has continued to pass the levy since 1999.

Harrison said the proposed renewal this year — which accounts for 9 to 10 percent of their entire budget — will not cause an increase in taxes paid since it is just a renewal at the current rate. However, if it doesn’t pass, the school system will be scrambling, she said.

“If the levy should not pass, we are going to have to make a lot of budget adjustments, which will cause our students to suffer,” Harrison said. “The students will suffer because they will not have some of the things the levy provides for and our community will suffer because we give to Stockert Youth, the county libraries and the 4-H Program. A lot of those dollars, which the levy provides, would go away if the levy does not pass.”

Harrison said Upshur County Schools has confidence in community members and staff and administrators believe residents care about education.

“We believe the levy will pass,” Harrison said. “If anyone has questions, they can call me, Jeffrey Perkins (Upshur County Schools treasurer/financial director) or Melinda Stewart (interim assistant superintendent) at the board office and we will answer your questions.”

BOE member Sherry Dean said she remembers teaching in Upshur County Schools prior to a levy.

“I was teaching CPR and I can remember rain dripping down my back,” Dean said. “Everything was in such bad shape. The levy is very beneficial to our kids and our students and parents. When I first came to Upshur County in 1969, I was pretty shocked when I went to the bookstore to purchase school books. In the county I came from, we did not have to buy our own books. It was had when people had to dish out money for their children’s textbooks.”

BOE Vice-President Jan Craig said she had completely forgotten about the bookstore.

“I remember my first days teaching on Main Street,” BOE member Roy Wager shared. “When I was a third- and fourth-grade teacher, the first thing I was told was to grab a case of paper because it would be all I was provided for the year. We did not have computers and everything was handwritten. When I was going around before I retired as superintendent, I asked the staff about the levy … and asked them to figure out what the kids and they did [could do without] if the levy did not pass because there will be a lot not provided for – including staff members.”

There was discussion about how Upshur County’s Levy compares with other counties in West Virginia. Officials said that 39 of the 55 West Virginia counties have voter-approved excess levies, and 24 of those 39 levies in place have tax rates higher than Upshur County. Overall, Upshur County currently ranks 25th amount West Virginia counties in local taxpayer contributions to education.

The Upshur County Schools Continuation of the Excess Levy Election will be on Nov. 8 and the polls will be open on Election Day from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Early voting is from Oct. 22 through Nov. 5 and on Monday through Friday will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The last day to register to vote in the General Election is Oct. 18.

Anyone with questions about the continuation of the levy may call the Upshur County Schools Central Office at 304-472-5480. The next public question and answer session for the levy call will be at 5:30 p.m. at Washington District Elementary School on Oct. 25 prior to the Upshur County Board of Education meeting.

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