Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus explains what the school levy will support during Tuesday night’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting. The excess school levy will appear on the Nov. 8, 2022, ballot and will be for fiscal years 2024-2029. Also pictured is assistant superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison. / Photo by Beth Christian Broschart

Upshur County Schools officials: Levy continuation to pay for vital learning materials, equipment

TENNERTON – Upshur County Schools officials on Tuesday reported on the Upshur County Schools excess levy, which will appear on the upcoming General Election ballot on Nov. 8, 2022.

The levy would cover fiscal years 2024 to 2029, with funding beginning July 1, 2024, and extending through June 30, 2029. It is listed on the ballot this November as a result of a change in West Virginia Code during the 2022 Legislative Session, which requires levies to be decided during May primary or November general elections, rather than during special elections held in alternate months. Passing the levy would support a continuation of the current levy, which Upshur County residents overwhelmingly approved by a record margin in January 2019.

Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus and Treasurer Jeffrey Perkins outlined some details of the levy proposal at the Aug. 9 Upshur County Board of Education meeting.

Perkins said the levy proposal was shared with the Upshur County Clerk’s office and the West Virginia State Auditor’s office.

“The state auditor’s office replied with a couple of recommendations, and we took those to our legal team,” Perkins said. “They are incorporating them into the levy call, and we should have that to the County Clerk by Friday.”

Perkins explained during Tuesday’s meeting the suggestions were mostly minor clerical errors.

“The content was the same – it was just some minor adjustments they recommended,” Perkins said.

Stankus said during the subsequent five Upshur County BOE meetings, reports would be presented to give everyone the opportunity to learn just where the school levy funds would be used.

“At each board meeting, we will have educational/informative meetings so people will understand what our levy funds,” Stankus said. “It is very important they know what these dollars are going to. Voting for the new levy will not raise taxes – they will stay at the same rate that we have been using.”

Stankus said ‘levies are for learning,’ and that is the focus of the levy in Upshur County.

“The first item on our levy is for instructional programs, supplies, materials and equipment, which is approximately $700,000,” Stankus said. “That line item plays for our textbooks. It also pays for library books. Each of our schools have libraries, and classrooms have libraries. Last year, we purchased 100 library books for each first-grade classroom and each year we will do a different grade.”

As far as essential school materials and equipment, Stankus said when new families come into Upshur County, they call to get an enrollment packet.

“They are surprised when they ask what they need to purchase for their student to start school and we tell them nothing,” Stankus said. “We have a levy that funds all of the paper, pencils and school supplies that your child will need to start school. That is a true blessing for our county. That is the way the community supports our students.”

Stankus said prior to the levy, teachers would carry their allotted paper around with them to make copies.

“The levy funds equipment and summer school,” she said. “In summer school, we offer driver’s education and that is a true asset to our community. Having our students come on to campus with an instructor who knows how to teach driver’s education and preparing students to get on the road safely is very important. Also, during summer school, we offer credit recovery, which is essential for students who did not pass a class or a course in high school. They can make up the credit and graduate on time and that is important to our county and families.”

Stankus said the third bullet under instructional programs funding by the levy are the alternative education programs, transitional school, Options Pathway and virtual school. She said all of those programs are supported through the excess school levy.

“It is really important for our curriculum, and this levy supports teaching and learning,” Stankus said.

The next meeting of the Upshur County BOE is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, at Buckhannon-Upshur High School Auditorium.

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