The excess levy: Why it's vital

March 28, 2006

For 54 years, the voters of Berkeley County, W.Va., have supported something called an excess levy that raises money for everything from special education to teachers' salary supplements.

On May 9, voters will go to the polls to decide whether to renew it. Our advice to voters: Give it your support again.

In a Friday report to the Chamber of Commerce of Martinsburg and Berkeley County, School Superintendent Manny Arvon said cash raised by the levy is vital to dealing with enrollment increases there.

In the past 15 years, Arvon said than more than 5,100 students have been added to the Berkeley County schools' enrollment. The school system expects to add 700 or 800 a year for the foreseeable future, he said.


The levy would raise more than $20 million, which Dr. William F. Queen, president of the School Board, said represents 17 percent of the system's budget.

Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, said that without the levy proceeds, teacher salaries would have to be cut, leading to what he called a "stampede" of teachers leaving the state for Maryland and Virginia.

What sort of new jobs would Berkeley County attract if the word went out that voters had refused to renew a levy that supported teachers' salaries? Most citizens probably know the answer to that.

If citizens want to blame someone, they can put the finger on those who told them that growth would add tax revenue.

Some kinds of growth - commercial and industrial, for example - will do just that. But residential growth usually generates less than it costs for the services that residents and their children require. It's not the school system's fault that enrollment is soaring and it needs voters' help to cope.

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