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Jefferson County voters asked to renew school levy

November 04, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Charles Town, W.Va. - Like any good salesperson making a pitch for a service, Jefferson County Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols wants parents to know how a proposed excess levy will help their wallets.

If Jefferson County residents pass the levy in Tuesday's election, it will pay for about $350 worth of textbooks for every student, Nichols said.

Without the levy, parents have to pay for the books, Nichols said.

Nichols said that is a good return on a parent's tax dollars, given the fact that the excess levy will increase the average homeowner's tax bill by only about $13 a year.

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"That's a big deal," Nichols said.

Jefferson County voters are being asked to renew an excess school levy that has been in effect in the county since 1946. The levy was last renewed in November 1997 when 61.4 percent of the voters approved it.

When the Jefferson County Board of Education voted in August to put the excess levy on the ballot, they decided to plug a tax increase into the proposal. The tax bill for someone who owns a house assessed at $100,000, would increase by $13.80 a year, school officials say.

When the Board of Education voted to put the excess levy on the ballot, board member Paul Manzuk voted against it because he feared the tax increase would cause county voters to reject it.

Although it is a small amount, the word "increase" is enough to turn some people against it, Manzuk said at the time.

Last week, Manzuk said he still feels the same way about the proposal, although he "supports it 100 percent."

Manzuk said people are not talking much about the levy. He added that there has not been any talk from groups who have been vocal in their opposition to other proposed tax increases for school projects.

That's good, he said.

"There's no way we can survive without it," Manzuk said of the levy.

Much of the money generated from the levy would go to salaries.

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

With the growth expected in the county, the school system needs to do whatever it can to attract teachers, Nichols has said.

"It's not excess money, it's essential money," said Nichols, adding that the levy makes up about 20 percent of the school system's budget.

The excess levy will enhance salaries for teachers and service personnel the longer they stay with the school system, Nichols said.

The levy will add $200 a year to the salary of a teacher working in the system up to three years, Nichols said. It will add another $775 to the salary of a teacher who has taught at least 20 years, Nichols said.

The levy will also help pay salaries of teachers for whom the school system does not get state aid. Those are teachers of art, music and other elective courses.

The levy helps fund insurance programs for school employees, helps pay for substitute teachers, will help add more nurses to the school system, and will add more 4-H and other programs, Nichols said.

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