Board Opts to Keep Levy Rate at 98 Percent

The Marshall County Board of Education will take in an additional $21.7 million next year after voting Tuesday to keep its levy rate at 98 percent for the 2013 tax year.

Citing specific personnel and finance issues “that affects this matter,” Board President Roger Lewicki called the 30-minute closed-door session after hearing from 11 individuals under the delegation portion of the agenda, as well as the district’s business manager Nan Hartley.

The 11 individuals shared differing opinions on the district’s levy rate, which stands to generate nearly $21.7 million for the district from the recently-passed excess levy during the 2013 tax year. County resident Jim Thomas, who has previously asked the board to lower the rate to 72 percent, again emphasized that keeping the rate at that number would still generate more money than the board asked for in the levy issue.

“How much money do we need?,” Thomas asked the board.

Joe Parriott also asked the board to lower the rate, saying the board has taken every dollar it could from taxpayers over the past several years.

“How much money would it take to economically run the district?,” he asked. “Spending every dollar available shows a lack of management.”

Despite the pleas from several residents, others, including teachers and parents, voiced their approval of keeping the levy rate the same. Josh Gary, a county resident and teacher of Advanced Placement government and history at John Marshall High School, said he and his fellow teachers feared a reduction in the levy could mean more cuts to programs that aim to help students achieve. He and other Advanced Placement teachers said they put in extra work, time and effort into these programs without receiving payment and oftentimes pay for supplies out of pocket, and asked the board to consider that when making a decision.

“We do all we can to help our best and brightest,” he said. “Do not lower the rate so much to cut programs, do not lower it at all.”

In making her presentation to the board, Hartley explained Marshall County saw an increase of $605 million from assessed property value for the upcoming tax year.

She said in keeping the rate at 98 percent, the district would receive about $21.7 million from the excess levy, or about $5 million more than was asked for in ballot issue. Every 1 percent reduction or addition, Hartley said, amounted to $233,339.

Hartley also outlined a number of issues for the board to consider when making the decision, including a 5 percent cut in federal funding for special education; a potential decrease in state funding, potential countywide pay increases for employees, the first since 1990; and projects at John Marshall High School and Washington Lands and Glen Dale elementary schools.

After reconveneing from the closed-door session, Board Vice President Lori Kestner made a motion to keep the rate at 98 percent, with board member Tom Gilbert making a motion to second. The board unanimously voted to keep the rate at 98 percent.

“We were elected to take care of the kids in the county,” Kestner said following the vote. “Shame on us if we didn’t do that.”

Gilbert said as recently as last week, the board had every intention of lowering the rate. However, he said new information received by the board, as well as the uncertainty of other funding, led them to vote to keep the rate the same.

He, nor other members of the board, elaborated on that new information.

The rate will be sent to the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office for approval, and Tuesday’s meeting will be reconvened April 16 for board approval pending approval from the auditor’s office.