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Levy passage is key for schools, officials maintain

October 27, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Letters to the editor have been written in support of a proposed school levy for Jefferson County Schools, and church groups and members of civic organizations have heard pitches about how important it is to the school system, Superintendent of Schools R. Steven Nichols said.

School officials have emphasized how money from the levy makes up about 30 percent of the school system's budget and what a bind they would be in if voters don't renew it in the Nov. 7 general election.

"We don't have the money to take that kind of a hit," Nichols said. "I believe we've done our homework."

On election day, school officials are hoping that Jefferson County residents keep doing what they have done since 1946 and pass the levy that generates a little more than $15 million a year to help increase salaries for local teachers.

Salaries for Eastern Panhandle teachers is a big issue for local school systems because of the large number of teachers who leave local school systems for higher salaries in neighboring states.

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Attempts earlier this year in the state Legislature to increase the salaries were unsuccessful.

The excess property tax levy that expires this year generates thousands of dollars of extra pay for teachers, school officials have said.

For a teacher with 20 to 25 years of experience, the levy increases that teacher's state salary by $3,035 plus gives the teacher two additional checks totaling $1,075, school officials said.

The excess property tax levy also pays for textbooks and instructional materials, helps fund local libraries, helps pay for nurses in schools and helps fund maintenance to schools, school officials said.

Nichols emphasized how important the levy is considering its contribution to the school system's budget and the dire circumstances the school system would be facing if it were defeated.

For a taxpayer who owns a house that is appraised at $250,000, the levy costs that person about $650 a year, said Beth Marrone, treasurer for Jefferson County Schools.

Jefferson County Schools spokeswoman Gail Woods said school officials are hopeful for passage, mostly because of its past success.

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