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Yoder: Bill 'not adequate' for Panhandle

Local state senators question proposal regarding hiring of school teachers

Local state senators question proposal regarding hiring of school teachers

January 25, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A proposal to give West Virginia's 55 counties more flexibility with hiring school teachers and employees by allowing them to retain 28 percent more of their property tax money would serve as an incentive to keep land value assessments up to date, state Sen. John Yoder said Wednesday.

"When 98 percent of your money (now) is going to the state, there is kind of an incentive to keep your assessments low" and rely on the state for more funding, said Yoder, R-Jefferson.

Yoder conceded the bill, which has the support of House Majority Leader Joe DeLong, was "not adequate" for the Eastern Panhandle, "but it's better than nothing."

DeLong's proposal would reduce the amount of the local share that is subtracted from the state-aid formula from 98 percent to 70 percent, said Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley.

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Fellow 16th District Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, who is expected to sponsor a different local share proposal that includes a provision for growth counties, said he wouldn't be opposed to giving counties more flexibility.

"I do like the 70 percent, I hope we can go there," said Unger, who still questioned how the legislation would address the rapid growth in student enrollment in the Eastern Panhandle's three counties and its battle to compete with neighboring states' teacher pay.

"The House is still not recognizing that there are unique challenges in the state and that one size does not fit all," Unger said.

Unger said he has been working with Senate Education Committee Chairman Robert "Bob" Plymale and Gov. Joe Manchin's administration to write a bill that would allow counties experiencing four years of sustained student enrollment growth to retain more property tax money.

The legislation Unger supports would return the additional percentage of money if the growth slowed to the levels of other counties with a stable student population.

Unger questioned how the House proposal would be fair in instances where counties are experiencing population growth, but not corresponding increased student enrollment, as is the case in Putnam County.

He also questioned the significance of the additional money in growth counties such as those in eastern West Virginia that need to hire more teachers and staff versus those where teachers are the highest-paid workers and enrollments are stagnant.

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