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Jefferson County's bond vote: Some background on the issue

September 22, 2000

Jefferson County's bond vote: Some background on the issue



The voters of Jefferson County, W.Va. will make up their minds this coming Saturday about whether to pass a $39 million school bond issue. They - and not the editors of a Hagerstown newspaper - will have to pay the additional taxes if they decide to approve this.

But before the vote is taken, we would like to offer a few facts, as a counter to what seems to be some misinformation about the vote. We have heard the story that the vote was scheduled for a Saturday because administrators felt that only those in favor would take the time to vote on that day.

Back in May, however, Superintendent David Markoe said the vote was set for Sept. 23 because the State's School Building Authority would reject a request if the board waited until November, one month past the normal deadline, to make a request.

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Why worry about what the authority would do? Because the bond issue would only cover construction of a new high school, the renovation of an existing one and cost increases for a new middle school.

In addition, the board is seeking $4 million in Authority funds that would fund renovation of every junior high and elementary school in the county. Authority members have also said that its funds are, in essence, matching money that will be released only if the school bond passes.

How much will it cost the average taxpayer? Back in May, Markoe said that for a person who owned a house appraised at $100,000, the average tax bite would increase by $143, or about $12 per month.

There has been much coverage of this issue, including the claims that the metropolitan-style growth that nearby Loudon County, Va., is experiencing could be stopped if there were no additional school space available.

However, we don't believe that the county can get out of its obligation to provide education to the children of legal, taxpaying county residents. Refusing to serve those children would be a new twist, but one unlikely to stand up to legal challenge. Other methods, like impact fees and adequate-facilities laws, are better tools for that purpose.

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