A 2022 photo announcing the $882,625 award from the School Building Authority. Upshur County Schools had to return the money after voters rejected the excess levy in May.

Upshur County Schools plans to reapply for nearly $900,000 in SBA funding returned after levy failure

BUCKHANNON — Upshur County Schools has returned nearly $900,000 to the School Building Authority after the failure of the excess levy left the county unable to provide the necessary matching funds to build a new safety-focused entry at Tennerton Elementary School.

However, Upshur County Superintendent of Schools Christy Miller said the county plans to reapply in the fall for the funding — but this time in full.

Upshur County first received notification they had been awarded $882,625 in Major Improvement Project funding from the SBA in July 2022.

“The project will include improvements for student safety, including a safe schools entry and a new fire sprinkler system,” according to a press release from 2022. “The safe schools entry will create a more secure learning environment for all students at Tennerton Elementary School.”

At the time, it was estimated that Upshur County would need to provide an estimated $800,000 in matching funds, but Miller said that number had since increased to more than $1 million.

Once the levy failed, Miller told My Buckhannon the school system could no longer foot their share of the bill.

“We were counting on money from the excess levy, and when we didn’t pass the levy, we did not have the extra funds available to complete that project based on what we had to contribute as a county school system,” she said.

In a letter dated May 30, Miller officially informed Andy Neptune, the Executive Director of the W.Va. School Building Authority, that Upshur County could no longer proceed with the project.

“While understanding giving money back is not in our best interests, we do not currently have the funds to cover this full project ourselves,” Miller wrote. “It is hoped as Upshur County works through the state takeover process we will be able to come back to the authority with a more comprehensive look at the needs that exist and have the backing of funding to support our contribution. Please advise if there is any other information or steps we need to take to remedy this situation.”

According to Miller, Upshur County Schools had previously asked for, and received, an extension from the SBA regarding the project.

“When this request was made, it was contingent on the passage of the Excess Levy put before the voters on May 14, 2024,” Miller wrote. “Unfortunately, it did not pass, and we are therefore notifying you that we will not be able to proceed.”

The SBA included the measure on its Monday, June 24, meeting agenda.

Despite the setback, Miller said the project remains a priority. Upshur County Schools will next ask the SBA to fund the entire project, noting the hardship imposed after voters turned down the excess levy that had been in place for more than two decades.

“Even though we have to give this grant funding back, I will be working with the architects to submit what they call a ‘needs’ project in the fall, where we will go and ask the SBA to fund the entire project,” Miller said. “Hopefully, we will be able to secure that. It’s not unheard of, and I’m hopeful that they will look at our particular situation and perhaps be lenient towards the fact that we did attempt to pass an excess levy so that we could complete this project. Because that failed, it has put us into a situation where we are going to come and ask for the full amount so that we can at least get Tennerton completed with that safe schools entry that is so important to the safety of our students and faculty.”

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