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Board to put excess levy on ballot

August 21, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Despite concerns that Jefferson County Schools could lose $9 million in funding if the school board tries to increase an existing excess levy rate, the Jefferson County Board of Education Tuesday night decided to go to the voters in the Nov. 5 general election for permission to raise the levy amount.

Board of Education member Paul Manzuk said he is concerned voters are not going to approve a levy that calls for a tax increase.

Although the excess levy proposal would only increase a person's tax bill by $6.90 a year for a house assessed at $50,000, Manzuk said the word "increase" is enough to turn people against it.

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If voters turn down the excess levy, the school system would then lose the entire levy, including $9 million in existing funding, Manzuk said.

The board could have another special election to try for a lower levy rate, but Manzuk said voters will often defeat a levy again once they have turned it down the first time.

"I'm afraid we could lose everything," Manzuk said.

Other school board members favored the excess levy increase, saying the school system needs to do whatever it can to increase funding for teacher salaries and other school needs.

Board member Delores Milstead suggested having Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols show up in Manzuk's pharmacy in Charles Town with a pot of coffee and explain the need for the levy.

"That's beside the point, Mrs. Milstead," said Manzuk, saying he is talking about "people on the street."

Milstead and board members Lori Stilley, Cheryl Huff and Doris Cline voted for the increased levy rate. Manzuk voted against it.

Board members want the public to renew an excess levy that was passed by 61.4 percent of the voters in November 1997.

About 80 percent of the money generated from an excess levy would go to salaries.

School officials are concerned about large numbers of teachers leaving the school system for better paying teaching jobs in other states, and Nichols said the excess levy increase is vital to make salaries competitive.

With the growth that is expected in the county, the school system needs to do whatever it can to attract teachers, said Nichols. Nichols said he was just informed Tuesday by the Jefferson County Planning Commission that another subdivision is in the planning stages in the county that will add another 100 students to Jefferson High School.

The school board is making plans to build a second high school, but Nichols said he is worried about having enough teachers to put in the building.

"I need the help," said Nichols.

If the excess levy passes, Nichols said he wants to earmark money for bonuses for teachers. Under the superintendent's plan, teachers would receive steady bonuses the longer they stay with the school system.

Other funds in the excess levy would go toward increasing the number of school nurses from two to five, increasing public library support and support for 4-H programs, said Nichols.

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