Packed House Voices School Levy Concerns

MOUNDSVILLE – In November, Marshall County voters chose to continue paying for an excess levy to support the county’s schools.

During a meeting of the Marshall County Board of Education on Tuesday, an overflow crowd of more than 50 people applauded as county resident Jim Thomas asked board members to hold up their end of the deal.

Thomas pointed out the excess levy asked for $16,769,794 in additional funds for operation of the district. Thomas said in voting to approve that amount, he and other voters like him were considering the potential additional revenue the county and board would see once assessments for the 2013 tax year were outlined. Released earlier this year and finalized last week, those assessments will bring an additional $605 million into the county compared to last year.

Taking those assessments into consideration, Thomas asked the board to lower its levy rate to 72 percent – the rate at which the $16 million would be collected.

“We wanted you to have that” excess money, Thomas said. “But we don’t want you to have any more. You had to have that much, we agreed to it, now we want you to agree to it, too.”

The board did not lower its levy rate based on 2012 assessed values, which saw a $335 million increase over the previous year. That led Marshall County Assessor Chris Kessler to call on the board to seriously consider lowering its rate for 2013. Although no member of the board directly addressed the levy rate, Superintendent Fred Renzella previously said the board promised to consider lowering the levy rate if voters chose to pass the excess levy.

Some members of the large crowd also voiced frustration over the modified school calendar at Cameron high and elementary schools, as well as uncertainty over the district’s Suzuki strings program. Parents, students and instructor Janet Sparks voiced their displeasure after hearing rumblings in the community that the accelerated strings program would be eliminated or combined with the district’s regular strings program upon Sparks’ retirement in the next few years.

However, Board of Education President Roger Lewicki said it was the first he or any members of the board had heard of such a decision.

“We have never had discussion to eliminate the program,” Lewicki said to applause. “We have no intentions of eliminating this program.”

The board also met behind closed doors for 20 minutes Tuesday to discuss a financial matter.