Ohio County School District Anticipates Additional Revenue in Wheeling

Photo by Casey Junkins Ohio County Schools Superintendent Kim Miller speaks during the Tuesday’s board of education meeting.

WHEELING –Ohio County Schools officials are anticipating as much as $500,000 in new funding per year because of Alecto Healthcare Services’ purchase of Ohio Valley Medical Center.

None of this money will be needed to fund the new prevention resource officers stationed at Middle Creek and West Liberty Elementary schools, however, because Ohio County Sheriff Tom Howard said these deputies are funded through a grant program.

During Tuesday’s board of education meeting, Business Manager Steven Bieniek said he received official notification from the city of Wheeling about the expected increase in property value in Center Wheeling due to the Alecto purchase.

A chart shows values within the city’s proposed tax increment financing district increasing by $30.7 million from the 2017 tax year to the 2018 tax year.

The increase in value is because Irvine, Calif.-based Alecto’s purchase of OVMC transitions the hospital from a nonprofit entity to a for-profit operation. This also allows the city of Wheeling to tax the hospital’s operations at 17 cents for every $100 of gross income — and enables the city to establish a TIF district to fund $4 million worth of repairs to the Center Wheeling parking garage.

Bieniek said based on the preliminary figures, the school could gain as much as $500,000 worth of revenue per year. However, he said the amount would likely be less because the city is seeking the TIF declaration from the West Virginia Development Office.

TIF allows governments to perform improvements to a property by accessing the money that will result from the property’s increase in value.

When asked how they may use the additional annual funding, school officials said they were uncertain.

“Today was the first I have heard of it,” Assistant Superintendent Rick Jones said. “We’ve not discussed it.”

This new revenue would be in addition to the revenue school officials anticipate from a natural gas lease with Southwestern Energy Co. In August, board members agreed to allow drilling under Wheeling Park High School at a rate of $3,500 per acre for 66 acres, along with 18 percent of production royalties.

Also, Howard and Ohio County Chief Deputy John Schultz addressed the board regarding the two new prevention resource officers. Howard said the deputies will work at Middle Creek and West Liberty elementary schools at no cost to the board.

“We are the only county in the state to get PROs for elementary schools,” Howard said of the state grant program.

Jones said the school system now features two deputies at WPHS and one at Madison Elementary School on Wheeling Island, in addition to those at Middle Creek and West Liberty. He said the Wheeling Police Department stations officers at each of the district’s middle schools, including Warwood, Bridge Street, Triadelphia and Wheeling.

“Any time you can have a police presence, it is a big help,” Jones said. “We are not law enforcement officers. They educate us a lot in terms of what types of activity may be a crime.”

“I want them in every school,” Howard added.

The next board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at Bethlehem Elementary School.