Hike proposed for school tax rate
The Morgan County School Board unanimously approved an increase in their special levy tax rate that will result in a hike of about 2% in county property taxes this July.
At their March 23 meeting, the board voted to increase the special levy portion of the school tax from 83.5% of the regular tax levy to 88.5% of the regular levy.
The school board is scheduled to approve and adopt the new special levy rate at their April 20 meeting.
The tax hike will bring in an additional $307,120 in school revenue.
Where money will go
About two-thirds of the levy money would go into the capital improvement fund.
Some $104,000 would go in the General Fund for technology tools, daytime alternative school computers and furniture, team leader and technology coordinator raises, increased sick leave incentive and raising the salary cap for teachers who have worked for 35 to 40 years.
Teachers who are team leaders and technology coordinators currently receive an additional $1,000 for those duties.
School Treasure Nancy White said the county’s assessed property values are down over $6 million. There were assessed values in new properties of $18 million.
The school system lost $350,000 in state aid due to decreased enrollment and has cut personnel positions.
School board president Laura Smith said they had weighed heavily the decision to raise the special levy and would never do it lightly.
Board member Larry Omps hoped the public would see it as a benefit for the community.
Some $300,000 of the special levy money will go into the Capital Improvement Fund over the next two years as the local match for the $3 million project to renovate Berkeley Springs High School gymnasium.
Smith and Superintendent David Banks gave the gymnasium project presentation to the West Virginia School Board Authority in Charleston on March 23. They will get word about whether the project would receive School Building Authority funding later this spring.
Fund almost depleted
Banks said Morgan County Schools have gone from having a $1.5 million Capital Improvement Fund to a $136,000 fund balance in the last few years.
They have maintained their buildings well and need to continue to do so, he said.
Banks said the county would be turned down by the School Building Authority for facilities projects if they don’t increase the Capital Improvement Fund to up local matches.
Board member David Ambrose said they had kept the levy rate low for years and tried to be sensitive to the economic times. However, roofs need to be replaced and buildings have heating, ventilation and air conditioning needs, he said.
Ambrose noted that Morgan County voters approved the special levy at a rate of 100%, so it is still not at the maximum allowable rate.
All schools get money
Banks said funding for capital improvements projects goes to all Morgan County schools, but the public doesn’t always see improvements like roofs.
Omps pointed out that people don’t often associate a roof with what it costs. They may think a roof costs $20,000 to $30,000 when it costs $112,000.
White originally estimated the cost for the new Paw Paw High School roof at $85,000, but the actual cost was $196,000. The Capital Improvement Fund provided the $67,962 local match for the Paw Paw roof.
Board member Eric Kidwell said the completed Paw Paw cafeteria looks much better. The cafeteria has been painted and has new flooring and tables.
Morgan County Schools was awarded $303,970 for asbestos removal from the School Building Authority for their Major Improvement Plan asbestos removal project.
A local match of $40,000 from the Capital Improvement Fund will go for asbestos removal work this summer.
Asbestos abatement is scheduled at Greenwood Elementary, Paw Paw Elementary, Paw Paw High School, Widmyer Elementary, Pleasant View Elementary, Berkeley Springs High School, Great Cacapon and the school board meeting room.
The school board will reconvene their March 23 meeting on Tuesday, April 20 to approve the special levy rate.
A public hearing on the school budget will be held on Tuesday, May 4 at the board office.