In this photo from 2019, Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus, at left, embraces Upshur BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples after learning county voters approved the levy renewal. Samples was re-elected Tuesday night. / File photo

Upshur County voters overwhelmingly approve school levy

BUCKHANNON – Voters overwhelmingly approved the Upshur County Schools levy renewal during Saturday’s special election.

The unofficial results are in and the levy passed with 1,717 votes for the levy and 854 votes cast against.

Those gathered Saturday evening at the Upshur County Courthouse began clapping as Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus, Upshur County School superintendent, read the final results all 21 precincts reporting.

Stankus said the real winners are the kids, and those in the school system are excited and thankful for the passing of the levy.

“The passage of the levy exemplifies the trust that people have in the schools of Upshur County,” she said. “Our children are the future! Who could be more precious and important? We take this investment seriously and are going to work hard to continue to earn our communities trust in our educational system.”

Stankus said she is ecstatic and grateful to the people who supported the levy. The results showed 66.78 percent of the voters were in favor of the levy, while 33.22 percent of the voters were against the passage of the levy.

That margin of approval far surpasses previous school levy elections; the measure squeaked by in 2009 and was approved by a 13-point margin in 2014.

“We are happy for the students of our county who will continue to have the quality music, art, athletic and academic programs that are currently offered,” she said. “We are thankful that our teachers and staff will have the added resources that will allow them to do their jobs more efficiently. We appreciate our community more than they will ever know.”

Stankus said there were many people who worked hard to ensure the levy passed.

“Community people who have led the levy committee for a number of years have done a phenomenal job,” she said. “To win by such a margin is an achievement that took a full community effort. The thing we are most happy about is that we can move forward and not have to make the drastic cuts we would have had to make had the levy failed.

“The people of this community have supported their children in levy renewals for over 20 years,” she added. “I grew up here, continue to live and work here, and have raised my own children in this community and educated them in our school system by choice. Upshur County is a great place to live, work and raise a family. We just want to say thank you to our community. We are blessed. We are Upshur Strong.”

The current Upshur County excess levy has been in effect since July 1, 1999 and must be approved by local voters every five years. The current levy expires in June 2019 and this will carry the levy funding into 2024.

Upshur County Board of Education member Kristi Wilkerson said the kids are the big winners.

“I think the community has been overwhelmingly supportive,” Wilkerson said. “Once we announced when the election would be, everyone has been very positive and very supportive. This means so much to the students and the schools. Tonight is just a wonderful evening.”

Board member Dr. Greenbrier Almond said the results are great news for the students in Upshur County.

“We thank all of the voters that got out in the rain and blustery weather and voted,” he said.

Dr. Debra Harrison, assistant superintendent of Upshur County Schools, said she is so excited and so appreciative of the support for the levy.

“We could not have done it without the community,” Harrison said. “It just speaks to the fact that this community really supports our students. It is just wonderful!”

Board member Alan Suder said he wanted to thank the voters of Upshur County for supporting the students and the schools.

Dr. Tammy Samples, board president, said she was very excited with the passage of the levy.

“It’s a win for the kids,” Samples said. “It will help with textbooks, programs and a variety of things. Safety is a large piece of the levy this time and we so thank the voters of Upshur County for coming out this time for us.”

Board member Katie Loudin she wanted to thank everyone who voted for the levy.

“I want to thank the community for recognizing the hard work our administrators, our teachers and our school personnel are doing each day to serve the kids of our community,” Loudin said. “I am really, really proud of the effort Dr. Stankus, Dr. Harrison and the entire community group that was working on this put forth. I think to have this level of support from the community validates the great work our school personnel and teachers are doing for our kids. I could not be prouder than to be from Upshur County.”

The levy will help the approximately 3,800 students enrolled in Upshur County Schools. All programs and all students will be impacted by the special levy dollars. State allocations and federal funding provide only a portion of the total dollars needed to operate public schools. Local funding through special levies make up the shortfall. In Upshur County this represents approximately 9 percent of the general current expense budget.

The special levy supports school safety and security, including prevention resource officers; $200 each year for teacher supplies; instructional and technology tools for 21st Century curriculum and instruction; improving and updating school libraries; facility and equipment maintenance; student-related community services including free admission to all students, senior citizens, active military and Veterans to school-sponsored extra-curricular activities; and support for art, music and athletic extra-curricular programs.

The voter turnout Saturday equated to approximately 19.03 percent of registered voters in Upshur County.

“I looked at the last two excess levy elections,” Upshur County Clerk Carol Smith said. “In 2009, there was almost a 19 percent turnout of voters, and in 2014 there was a turnout of nearly 22 percent of the voters.”

Smith said the election went smooth.

“There were no major issues,” Smith said. “All of the results were here quickly. The new voting equipment saved time and we had great poll workers.”

The canvass of the levy election results is slated for 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 25.

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