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Randolph board to put school levy on ballot again

ELKINS, W.Va. — Voters in Randolph County will likely see another excess school levy on the ballot in the upcoming election in November.

In response to Superintendent Pam Hewitt’s recommendation and much recent discussion and preparation, Randolph County Board of Education members voted unanimously in favor of running a school levy in the upcoming Nov. 8 election.

“I think this is for the good of our students,” Board member Amanda Smith said.

The purpose and approximate amounts for funds were provided at the meeting and can be accessed online on the Randolph County Board of Education website.

The purpose and approximate amounts are as follows: $1,095,000 annually to curriculum and instruction, $540,000 annually to facilities, $180,000 to athletics, $765,000 annually to employee programs, $170,000 to community and student services, and $150,000 annually to capital improvements.

“It’s exciting to me that we can possibly put some things in capital gain so that when we have problems, we’re not always behind trying to catch up as we have been for any years,” Board President Donna Auvil said.

“Running another levy on the ballot this November is unjust and unfair to the public,” local business owner Carrie Utt said.

Utt explained she has been in contact with members of the West Virginia State Senate as well as a number of attorneys in an effort to change West Virginia Code 18-9-2 so there would be a limit to the number of times that a school board can present a levy on the ballot per year.

Those in opposition to the levy said the Board of Education often emphasize funding from the levy is used to best educate the children of Randolph County. However, a concern of those citizens is this proposed levy contains $765,000 per year for optional eye and dental insurance for employees.

“Unfortunately, I think some of the teachers have gotten attacked a little bit as far as some of the benefits and programs that are presented, which is unfortunate for them. I’m not at all embarrassed to try to offer those to employees,” Board member Rachel Anger said.

As this would be the third proposed levy on the ballot in the last year, a number of members of the Randolph County community have expressed dissent and concern. Some of those in opposition said much of their frustration is due to “flip-flopping” by the Board. Specifically, a number of changes have been suggested over the period that the Randolph County BOE has been working to pass a levy during this year; however, many of these suggestions and changes were not necessarily addressed.

“While the Randolph County Board of Education worked to make adjustments to the levy, the levy proposed for November will run for four years rather than reducing to three years as the board had said they would reduce to in May,” Utt said. “In addition, in May the Randolph County Board of Education said they would reduce the levy from $2.8 to $1.96 million, but this proposed levy is $2.9 million per year.”

Each approximate amount is considered to be necessary for each of the purposes for four fiscal years, starting July 1, 2017, and continuing each subsequent month, day and year until July 1, 2016, in the annual sum of $2,900,000.

There are four property classes in Randolph County, and each class of taxable property within the county is certified by the county assessor and county clerk. The proposed rate of the excess levy in cents, per $100 of the assessed value on each property class is as follows: 7.76 cents for Class I, 15.52 cents for Class II, 31.04 cents for Class III, and 31.04 cents for Class IV.

However, in the event that property tax revenues generated by the excess levy for the suggested years are projected to exceed $2,900,000, the rate of the excess levy for all property classes will be reduced by the Randolph County Board of Education in order to produce approximately $2,900,000.

The category of curriculum and instruction includes materials, supplies, textbooks, technology, copier expenses, music and band programs, educational enhancement and dropout prevention. Facilities includes building and grounds repairs, security systems, inspections and summer maintenance. Athletics includes athletic directors and trainers, equipment and facilities, uniforms, transportation and athletic insurance. Employee programs include optical plan, dental plan, substitutes, staff over formula and leave incentive. Community and student services includes libraries, Artsbank, WVU Extension Service and Fee Admission Program for students who are enrolled in Randolph County Schools and residents who are 60 years of age or older.

“The voters have spoken twice this year on voting down the levy,” Utt said.

“Again, we aren’t out anything by trying, it’s not going to be a cost to the board, and it does benefit a lot of children,” Board member Lisa Wamsley said.

“It is for the kids and I feel like it is the best thing that we can try to offer,” Anger said.

“I don’t think we have a choice because we are facing some major problems,” Auvil said.

The Randolph County Commission regular meeting agenda states the Commission will consider a request from the Randolph County Board of Education for approval of the proposed school levy on the November 2016 election ballot. The meeting will be at the James Cain Court House Annex building at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting:

– Special Education Director and Testing Coordinator Donna Simmons offered a report to the board during Tuesday’s regular meeting regarding test results. The 2015-2016 West Virginia Summative Assessment Test results were presented by Simmons to the board.

The West Virginia Summative Assessment Test tested 2,550 students in grade three through grade 11 this year in reading/language arts as well as mathematics. In addition, students in grades four, five and 10 were also tested on science.

– Randolph County Board of Education board members voted unanimously to approve the purchase of the former Coalton Volunteer Fire Department facility for the purpose of equipment and records storage. The total cost of the purchase is $50,000, with funds for the purchase coming from general funding. A payment plan for the purchase of this building will be put into place.

– Unanimously, the board approved accounts payable from July 17, 2016, through Aug. 11, 2016, for the amount of $569,401.57. A list of bills is available upon request by calling the board office at 304-636-9150, ext. 121.

The next regular Randolph County Board of Education meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 9.

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