Berkeley Co. voters back school bonds

October 02, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- About 12 percent of Berkeley County's registered voters went to the polls last week for a special election to consider the Board of Education's taxpayer-financed building plan for four projects, including a fourth high school.

By nearly a 2-1 margin, voters overwhelmingly supported the school board's request to issue $51.5 million in bonds for the new construction and renovation work, according to official results released Friday by County Clerk John W. Small Jr. after all 7,233 ballots cast in the election were canvassed.

With all 66 precincts reporting, 63.6 percent of the voters (4,595) supported the bond issue and 36.3 percent (2,629) opposed it, according to official results.

Nine ballots that were deemed "provisional" by election officials were not accepted Friday by the canvassing board, which included county and school board officials. A provisional ballot often is cast when a person fails to vote in the precinct listed on their voter registration card.


Turnout was slightly lower than for the last school construction bond issue proposed in 2001, when 13.7 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, but the outcome was almost the same, according to records maintained by Small's office.

Of 5,555 ballots counted in the Sept. 29, 2001, election, 63.2 percent (3,514) voted in favor of the bond issue and 36.7 percent (2,041) voted against it, according to vote tallies on file Small's office.

By authorizing the bond issue last week, the owner of a home with an appraised value of $200,000 will see a net increase of $69.35 on their residential (Class II) property tax bills in 2010, school officials have said.

With the voter-approved bond issue in hand, the school district will receive $25 million from the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) for the new high school, which will be built in Spring Mills in northern Berkeley County.

School officials believe they also stand a good chance of netting another $20 million from the SBA for construction of a new middle school near Gerrardstown, W.Va., an addition at Musselman High School in Inwood, W.Va., and renovation and expansion of Martinsburg North Middle School.

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