Preston County excess levy fails in voting
Preston County voters resoundingly rejected an increase in the excess property levy proposed by their local school system.
The results of last Tuesday's election - the levy failed by almost 65 percent - have left school officials scrambling for solutions.
"We're saddened and disappointed," said Dr. Larry Parsons, superintendent of Preston County Schools. "I don't think really the citizens of the county realize what was taken away from the students and the school system by the defeat of the levy."
Excess levies are additional property taxes that school systems ask county voters to pass for additional revenue. For the last three years in Preston County, the excess levy provided the school system with $1.5 million annually.
The five-year levy rate put to the voters this year would have increased that amount to $1.7 million. For a home valued at $100,000, the new levy rate represented an increase of $11.94 per year, according to a 20-page report compiled by the Preston County Schools levy/bond committee.
Preston County's annual budget is a little more than $32 million, and the loss of levy funds will have an impact, Board of Education President Kathy McNeill
The levy provided funds for three maintenance workers; without that money, maintenance work will come to a screeching halt, McNeill
"Maintenance will be . . . there will be no maintenance," she
The county also used the funds to pay for textbooks and technology in schools, a small amount of dental and optical benefits for employees
and travel expenses and salaries associated with extracurricular activities, McNeill
In addition to budget cuts, the county also might start charging groups to use its facilities for after-school events, she
Parsons and McNeill spoke Wednesday in Charleston at the monthly state Board of Education meeting. Preston County has been under state control for the past three years, and they addressed board member questions about a recommendation by the department of education to maintain most of that control.
Financial issues were part of the reason the state intervened in the first place, and McNeill said the loss of levy funds would keep the county operating at a deficit.
The current levy runs until July 1, 2013. The county can hold a special election before that date to try again to
get the levy passed. But
that idea poses other challenges.
"We're discussing that, but you know we tied that to a general election because it costs about $45,00 to have a special election," McNeill
Parsons also pointed to the margin of defeat of the proposed levy. It failed by almost 3,000 votes. Parsons said the county needs to get more support for a levy or change its proposed levy before it risks spending money on another failed measure.
"The defeat was fairly large in terms of the number of votes, so you'd have to pull together a referendum that would be appealing and believable to the voters, and that they would want to financially support," Parsons
"The question is: Where are we right now in getting there?"