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Randolph Commission won’t put school levy on ballot

ELKINS, W.Va. — Randolph County Schools will not get a third attempt at an education excess levy in November.

The Randolph County Commission on Thursday denied a request by the Randolph County Board of Education to place on the ballot an excess levy that would have generated $2.9 million annually for four years.

Voters failed to pass previous levies, the first time in November by 542 votes and again in May by 544 votes. This would have been the third time a school levy appeared on the ballot in a year’s time.

The Commission unanimously agreed three times in one year would have been too many.

“My concern is this has been on the ballot twice,” Commission President Mike Taylor said. “Do we allow it to be put on the ballot again?”

All three Commission members said they received numerous requests to keep the levy off the ballot in November.

“I have had many constituents voice their concern against putting the levy on the ballot,” Commissioner Joyce Johns said.

Commissioner Chris See said he, too, spoke to many people who were against placing the levy on the ballot for the third time in a year.

“I’ve had multiple complaints,” he said.

Randolph County Schools Superintendent Pam Hewitt was disappointed in the Commission’s decision. The proposed levy call was different than the two previous ones and would have provided the school system with much-needed funding.

“We reworked the levy call and really hoped we could put that before the voters,” she said. “Ultimately, each time a levy has been proposed, it’s been a different levy call each time. We were trying different combinations, looking for the right combination the community could support.”

The 2016-2017 school year began without a levy in place, and the shortage of funds already is apparent, with schools being unable to provide school supplies as they have in the past.

“We’ve had to ask the parents to assist with that,” Hewitt said.

The school system will work to adapt to the missing funds, the superintendent said.

“The Board will have to make decisions about how we’re going to proceed with continuing the school system with the resources we have,” she said. “We will have to look at fundraisers, and also consider cutting back on some of the things we’ve been able to do.”

Area resident Alan Huffman was one of several individuals who attended Thursday’s meeting to voice opposition to allowing the levy on the ballot.

“I support the decision the County Commission made not to place the levy on the ballot,” he said. “I think the Commission listened to their constituents, and they should be praised for standing up to the Board of Education.”

The proposed levy would have raised $1,095,000 annually for curriculum and instruction, $540,000 annually for facilities, $180,000 for athletics, $765,000 annually for employee programs, $170,000 for community and student services, and $150,000 annually for capital improvements.

Many of the individuals who spoke out against the levy Thursday cited the $765,000 that would have been included for employee programs. They contended this included eye and dental insurance for teachers and personnel.

“I’m a senior, and I’m damned angry,” Marilyn Moore said. “I’m angry that they’re stupid enough to think we would believe this is going to benefit the kids. There has been no change, other than increasing the cost and giving service personnel and teachers benefits so they would go out and vote for it. We voted twice. That’s enough. I’m asking that you consider telling them, ‘No.'”

Taylor said it is his hope the community will be able to work together to support Randolph County Schools.

“Over the next year, I’m asking those who support the levy, those who are against it and the Board of Education to come together to find the best possible solution to give the students of Randolph county the best education we can afford,” he said.

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