Levy Rate Holds At 98 Percent

John Miller was the sole member of the Marshall County Board of Education to vote against laying the levy at the current rate of 98 percent for the 2013 tax year, as the rate passed in a 4-1 vote during Tuesday evening’s meeting.

The meeting reconvened the March 19 session, during which the board voted to keep the levy rate at 98 percent. Since then, the rate has been approved by the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office.

The issue has caused contention between the school system and the taxpayers, and previous meetings were well attended by those arguing both sides. Marshall County Assessor Chris Kessler was among those to speak out against keeping the levy at 98 percent.

Only three people were in attendance Tuesday, including Linda Snodgrass, representing the Marshall County Education Association, and John Marshall High School Advance Placement teacher Josh Geary, both of whom supported keeping the levy rate at 98 percent.

The school system has suffered through “lean times,” Geary told board members, and the excess revenue that will be generated by keeping the levy at 98 percent will enable administrators to address a litany of needs. While some are concerned that maintaining the rate may drive away prospective businesses, Geary said employers look to locate in areas with good schools.

After hearing from Geary, board member Beth Phillips made the motion to lay the levy, which was seconded by Thomas Gilbert. Board president Roger Lewicki and vice president Lori Kestner joined in their colleagues vote of yes, while Miller voted no.

Following the meeting, Miller said he has remained open to lowering the levy rate throughout the process, and he voiced that with his vote of no on Tuesday. The former longtime Marshall County teacher said he understands both sides of the argument, but could not in “good faith” to the taxpayers vote to maintain the current rate. He represents the interest of the students, but must be mindful of the county residents, he added.

Miller would not offer a specific number, but said 72 percent, which was proposed by county resident Jim Thomas during a previous meeting, was drastically low. Miller also pointed out that when a board decreases a rate, it is tough to ever raise it again.

The district will take in an additional $5.7 million by keeping the levy rate at 98 percent. The extra money comes from the additional $605 million increase in the county’s assessed property value, which are figures based on evaluations by Kessler’s office.

After passing the levy rate, the board met behind closed-doors to discuss construction and legal matters, among others, for about 80 minutes. No motions were made when they returned from the closed-door session.