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Levy Early Voting Begins Friday

By Staff | Nov 29, 2017

Photo by Lauren Matthews Pictured are Wetzel County Schools Superintendent Ed Toman, WCS Executive Secretary Jo Beth Simmons, and WCS Treasurer Jeff Lancaster.

Wetzel County voters will vote on the school excess levy renewal Friday, Dec. 15. However, voters can also take advantage of early voting, which begins Friday, Dec. 1. Early voting lasts through Dec. 12.

Wetzel County Schools’ treasurer, Jeff Lancaster, pointed out that the only change in the levy is in the property values; the rates remain the same. Class I property is 22.95 cents per $100 worth of valuation; for Class II property, 45.9 cents; and for Class III and Class IV properties, 91.8 cents. Estimated annual revenues, less allowances for exonerations, discounts, and delinquent taxes total $15,470,146.

School officials stress that the excess levy will not increase the tax rates for Wetzel County citizens, who have approved the excess levy since the early 1950s. The 2012 excess levy passed with 75.3 percent approval.

Superintendent Ed Toman expressed appreciation to the voters who have supported the measure, and the betterment of Wetzel County Schools.

He also expressed thanks to Executive Secretary Jo Beth Simmons, who serves as the levy coordinator. In turn, Simmons applauded the county clerk’s office, noting that WCS “couldn’t do this election without them!”

Treasurer Lancaster and Superintendent Toman cited several WCS projects that have been accomplished, thanks to the county’s continued support of the excess levy. This includes the continual community schools, competitive salaries/benefits with neighboring counties (to help fill WCS vacancies), Short Line School’s music room, Magnolia High School’s meats lab, Paden City High School’s classroom renovations, Hundred High School’s greenhouse, and New Martinsville School’s playground.

Furthermore, levy support has attributed to security upgrades – including shatter-proof glass and lock-down capabilities – at all schools.

Levy funds have also supported WCS’s 1:1 technology initiative – allowing each student to have a laptop or similar device. Furthermore, levy funds have supported upgrades in infrastructure, required to support the technology initiative.

Levy funds have allowed the implementation of nurses in every attendance area, along with the implementation of two social workers.

Lancaster also noted that, due to a decrease in assessed property values, WCS lost $2.8 million in funding for Fiscal Year 2018. WCS is expected to lose an additional $2.6 million for Fiscal Year 2019.

If the levy were not to pass, Lancaster and Toman describe a very bleak future for WCS. Many benefits to employees and students would be eliminated or curtailed to a great extent. Furthermore, there would be discussion of school closures.

A passage of the levy would be monies generated for the following uses:

* $750,000 for instructional materials such as textbooks, workbooks, supplies, and equipment for all students

* $800,000 for technology hardware, software, infrastructure, repair, training, and funding for providing a laptop or tablet to every PreK-12 WCS student

* $4 million for facilities improvement, renovation, repair, and maintenance

* $8,170,146 for employees’ dental and optical insurance, salary supplements, fixed charges, substitute costs, and positions in excess of the state funding formula

* $150,000 to support academic and athletic trips

* $350,000 to provide curricular tutors and athletic coaches

* $100,000 to support unfunded mandated positions

* $70,000 for duplicating equipment and supplies

* $200,000 to provide speech, occupational, and physical therapy service and athletic conditioning and training

* $40,000 to support Wetzel County Public Libraries

* $100,000 to annually purchase an additional school bus

* $170,000 to place a school resource officer at each attendance area

* $500,000 to continue providing free breakfast and hot lunch to all students

* $70,000 to fund an ACT/SAT preparation and incentive plan which will provide test preparation courses to all students, and will provide book scholarships to successful completers of the course with qualifying scores

Monday morning, the Wetzel County Education Association stated that it was endorsing the levy.