No Rate Set Yet for Levy

Ohio County Board of Education members will ask voters to renew an operating levy during the May 13 primary election, but the board won’t decide until April at what rate they will set that levy.

The board Monday night agreed to place on the ballot the renewal of a five-year operating excess levy, using the same language contained in the current levy passed in 2009. That levy is set at a rate of 95 percent of what the school district can tax under state law, and Superintendent Dianna Vargo said the board will decide at a meeting on April 15 whether to raise, lower or keep the rate the same.

Ohio County Assessor Kathie Hoffman has suggested to Ohio County Schools officials they should drop the rate of their levy as property values in Ohio County have increased. When it was passed in 2009, the levy generated $10,083,318 annually, and that figure would increase to about $12,999,854 per year if the board chooses to keep the rate the same.

Board member Gary Kestner raised questions about how the additional funds would be spent. He cited figures indicating most of the money is spent on salaries, and he wondered if more could be directed toward the purchase of textbooks, educational supplies and school buses.

In other matters, Kestner also spoke to the board about problems with the roof leaking at West Liberty Elementary School. He has received emails from a parent at the school informing him there are about 12 leaks in the roof, which are causing damage to floors and ceilings in the school.

Kestner said he wanted facilities and maintenance Director Jeffrey Turner to evaluate the situation, determine short-term and long-term solutions, and report back to the board at its next meeting on March 10.

Assistant Superintendent Bernie Dolan said the roof has been on the school district’s list for replacement since last year, but the funds haven’t been available.

“Let’s move that up to top priority,” board President James Jorden said.

The board has also received from the school district’s insurance company a check for $35,925 to replace a special needs bus determined a total loss following an accident last year. Board member Shane Mallett, also an attorney, questioned the amount and said because the school district was not at fault in the incident, the second party’s insurance company should pay an adequate amount toward the purchase of another bus.

David Ziegler, director of transportation, said the damaged bus was purchased in 2009 at a cost of $95,000, and was “about halfway through its life” at the time of the accident. The cost for the new bus was $109,000, according to Vargo.

Mallett said he would look into whether it would be possible to secure additional payment from the second party’s insurance company.

The board also voted to allow West Virginia University’s football team to use Wheeling Island Stadium for a practice and scrimmage on March 22. Similar events are being held in other cities in the state this spring.