HODGESVILLE – Upshur County Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debra Harrison and Finance Director Jeffrey Perkins led the first of three planned question-and-answer meetings designed to answer taxpayers’ questions about the proposed upcoming Upshur County School levy renewal.
UCS administrators and the Upshur County Board of Education are encouraging residents to learn more about the excess levy renewal. That’s because when Upshur County residents head to the polls in this November’s General Election, they will be able to cast their votes regarding the proposed continuation of the excess school levy – the one that’s currently in effect – for the next five fiscal years.
In July, Upshur BOE members unanimously voted to place the excess levy on the Nov. 8, 2022, General Election ballot at its regular meeting Tuesday, July 26. The renewal would be for a period of five years, covering fiscal years 2024-2029. The current levy is set to expire The current five-year excess levy was for the 2019-2024 fiscal years, and it is set to expire June 30, 2024.
The school levy has been in place since 1999, and officials want voters to know by voting to continue this levy, their taxes will not increase, Harrison and Perkins said at Tuesday’s Q & A forum.
Residents who attended the information session on the levy renewal at Hodgesville Elementary School Tuesday told Upshur County Schools officials they felt it important that voters know that approving the levy renewal will not cause an increase in taxes. For example, Dr. Joseph Reed suggested Perkins do some concrete calculations, using an example of a family with a home valued at $100,000 and a vehicle worth $20,000, so voters could see an estimated cost.
Reed also said that taxpayers need to realize they do not have to have a student currently enrolled in Upshur County Schools to see the benefits of the levy renewal, and Harrison agreed.
“I would say that most individuals in this county have some type of connection to someone who is an employee of Upshur County Schools or a student in the system,” Harrison said. “Those connections can be broad and long range, but the connections are there. The other thing is when residents invest in education that helps the community. When we are able to improve what we do in our educational system, that helps us attract others to our community, like other businesses. [Local leaders involved in economic development] are trying desperately in Upshur County to bring in other businesses.”
Don Nestor said he is part of the group that founded the Foundation for Better Schools in Upshur County years ago to help schools cover expenses they struggled to afford.
“Before the levy renewal, parents had to foot a lot of the bills themselves,” Nestor shared.
Perkins said the levy generates more than $3 million annually for the schools.
“With that, we are able to provide textbooks for our students,” Perkins said. “It provides extracurricular contracts for additional teaching, transportation to extracurricular activities such as tutoring. It enables us to reach out to give the best to employees.”
Harrison said families paying for textbooks is quite taxing on families, especially those with limited income. Perkins also noted that the continuation of the levy would mean students do not have to buy pencils, paper and other classroom supplies.
Other items funded through the levy include summer school, technology specialists, purchase and leasing of hardware and software, safety and security improvements, PRO Officers and student accident insurance. Funds from the levy renewal would support the Upshur County libraries, the 4-H Program and Shooting Sports, and the Stockert Youth Center. Additionally, it would help in paying for passes for students and families to the Upshur County Recreational Park and the West Virginia Wildlife Center and assists in providing passes at extracurricular events for Upshur County students, active service and veteran military residents and residents aged 60 and older.
Perkins said the funds generated by the levy renewal equal approximately 9-10 percent of the total Upshur County Schools’ annual budget. He said the levy renewal must receive 50 percent of the vote plus one vote to pass – and that the levy renewal proposal is on the Early Voting Ballot as well.
“The property values in the county have remained relatively the same,” Perkins said. “The property values are almost exactly as they were five years ago.”
Following the levy renewal question-and-answer session, Harrison urged residents to continue asking questions about the proposed levy renewal.
“We encourage any individual who has questions to come to French Creek Elementary School for our next levy question-and-answer session,” Harrison said. “Any questions folks have, we hope they will contact us, especially if it relates to the finances.”
The next two Upshur County Schools Levy Renewal information meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at French Creek Elementary School and 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25 at Washington District Elementary School.
Residents who have questions or would like more information but cannot attend either of those meetings may contact the Upshur County Schools Central Office by calling 304-472-5480.