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Tabb, Wilbourne squaring off in 56th District

October 18, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Higher pay for public school teachers, relief from rising property taxes and increased funding for schools are among the issues being pushed by the two candidates running for the 56th House of Delegates seat.

Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson will square off against Republican R. Earl Wilbourne in the Nov. 7 general election.

Tabb is seeking his third two-year term representing the 56th House of Delegates district, which runs from the Virginia line and cuts through parts of Rippon, Leetown, Summit Point, Charles Town and Ranson. It also goes through the Bardane and Leetown areas and into Berkeley County covering areas such as Darkesville and the Arden area.

The pay for the position is $15,000 a year.

Bob Tabb, Democrat

Tabb, owner and operator of Town & Country Nursery and a farmer, said he is running for re-election because he wants the chance to fight for higher pay for local teachers, help ease the blow of increasing property taxes in the Eastern Panhandle and push for state tax reform.

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Tabb, 54, of 1885 Darke Lane, Kearneysville, W.Va., said it is vital for local teachers to have higher pay to keep them from being attracted to neighboring states for higher pay.

Pay is not the only factor that is causing the Eastern Panhandle to lose teachers, Tabb said.

West Virginia has some of the highest standards for state workers like teachers, which "makes them a really good target" for employers in other states with positions to fill, Tabb said.

Tabb said his strategy for higher teacher pay will be continuing to educate his counterparts about the consequences of failing to boost the salaries.

This year, Berkeley County Schools had 223 vacancies to fill and many teachers who left the system cited pay as their reason for leaving.

"The problem, to me, is likely to get worse before it gets better," Tabb said.

Tabb said he also wants to ease the burden of increasing property tax bills for the elderly by increasing the homestead exemption and working on reform of state business taxes that slow economic growth.

The state's current homestead exemption allows property owners 65 years old and older to take $20,000 off the valuation of their property.

R. Earl Wilbourne, Republican

Wilbourne, a minister and small-business owner, said he is running on a platform that includes eliminating the state's food tax, increasing the homestead exemption, making sure local school systems get the funding they deserve and business tax reform.

Wilbourne, 52, of 4828 Summit Point Road, Charles Town, said the state's food tax needs to be eliminated since the state is enjoying a surplus of funds. There are other reasons the food tax should be scrapped, Wilbourne said.

The state has been taking in upwards of $1.5 billion in state lottery revenue and the state population has been decreasing, Wilbourne said. Yet at the same time, jobs have increased, Wilbourne said.

"Let's give some help here. There's every reason in the world to cut the food tax," Wilbourne said.

Wilbourne said he wants to increase the homestead exemption by 40 percent statewide and is upset over the fact that the state gives local counties less education funding because they have excess school levies.

Wilbourne said he believes local school systems should get the state funding due to them regardless whether they are able to pass levies to boost their revenues.

Wilbourne is also concerned about the amount of taxes businesses face such as the franchise tax and said they are the reason the state is ranked near the bottom for its business tax structure.

Meanwhile, Virginia is ranked No. 1 for its business tax system, said Wilbourne, adding that he is excited about his prospects in the election.

"I've been working my butt off. If people come out and vote, I think we can win this thing," he said.

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