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Morgan County school board rolls back excess levy rate

April 03, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The Morgan County Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved a $26,916,888 budget for fiscal year 2008-09 and rolled back the excess levy rate from 85 percent to 83.5 percent.

Morgan County Schools Treasurer Nancy White said the more than $1.5 million budget increase from last year will be used to pay for the state minimum school salary increases. Professionals are to receive $1,600 and service personnel will receive $700, she said.

In addition, the county will supplement a "modest increase" with excess levy funding, White said, with a $300 increase for professionals and a $200 increase for service personnel.

"We are trying to stay competitive and attract and retain quality teachers in Morgan County," White said.

She said since the excess levy rate was rolled back to 83.5 percent, "if your property is assessed as last year (2007), you will see a decrease in the excess levy tax."

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Before the school board voted on the excess levy, Morgan County Superintendent of Schools David Banks recommended the board keep the excess levy at 85 percent, which would have given an increase of $258,461 and would have allowed higher pay increases by $100 and restore cuts made earlier in budget workshops.

However, school board member David Ambrose said "anti-tax sentiment is pretty intense. I'd like to see the levy rate go down a point or two." He expressed concern for the renewal of the excess levy, which comes up for a vote by Morgan County citizens before the end of 2008.

Morgan County School Board president Laura Smith and vice president Larry Omps also wanted a lower excess levy rate. Omps suggested giving the teachers a lower salary increase and "make funding cuts where you can."

White said about $4.6 million is projected in property taxes from the excess levy, more than $4.6 million is projected in property taxes from the general expense levy and $12.3 million will come from state aid.

Because county property taxes for 2008 had to be recalculated last week using the 1.75 percent modifier rate instead of 1.50 percent, budgets were redone and more than $68 million of improved property value increases resulted from the adjustment, White said.

Joseph Panetta, director of school finance with the State Department of Education, advised White that the state would not recalculate the figures and would not reduce the $12.3 million in state aid this year, she said.

Final approval of the rates will be made April 15, and a public hearing on the budget will be April 22 at 6 p.m. at the board office, White said.

School funding is collected from local property taxes. The general expense levy funding comes from the more than $4.6 million in local property taxes and the more than $12.3 million in state aid. The local tax funding is used for general operating expenses for all West Virginia schools, White said.

The excess levy funding of about $4.6 million comes from local property taxes and is used for Morgan County Schools only, she said. The funds pay for supplemental salaries, books, computers, school trips and other classroom supplies.

Last year, the school board members voted to roll back the excess levy to 85 percent on April 17. They initially voted for an excess levy rate of 90 percent on March 27, but many members of the community spoke out against it.

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