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Say Yes to the Levy

Editor, News-Register:

There is a great deal of misinformation being spread about the St. Clairsville schools levy. Build STC wants everyone to make an informed decision on Nov. 6, so here are some facts.

First, it’s important to remember what this levy is about: children. These facilities are going to change the lives of students who are learning and receiving services in janitor closets, students with mobility issues who walk outside every day because buildings are not ADA-compliant, students who don’t have adequate science labs, students limited by the available technology, and students who are not receiving the educational opportunities they deserve because of the limitations of aged buildings.

The new buildings will provide incredible learning opportunities to over 1,700 students, every year, for decades to come. It will make our community more appealing, solidifying community property values. With the growth in Belmont County, St. C has the opportunity to attract new businesses and families, broadening the tax base. If we do not replace our school facilities, our ability to attract newcomers will be in question as surrounding districts have recently constructed school facilities. In fact, six districts that border St. Clairsville have built new buildings.

Other Belmont county schools had to ask a lot less from their community for their ENTIRE building project because the state paid for the rest. Surrounding school districts’ levies have been less than St. C’s because they receive more state funding. For perspective, the state would provide other schools between 63-87 percent of funding for these schools if they were to build right now. St. Clairsville receives 6 percent, and that money won’t be available for many years because of St. C’s OFCC ranking of 572/610. Unlike those districts, we have to ask a lot from our community because of the state funding system, and that is why the district has been financially responsible and has asked to raise taxes only once in the past 25 years.

The cost of the project is based on the average square foot cost for schools in the area, data from recently bid projects, and other factors related to construction; it is determined by the architect. In considering surrounding districts’ current or future projects that were or will be a total of $69 million for one building, $64 million for two buildings, renovation, and demolition, and $43 million for renovations, St. C’s project of four buildings, renovations, demolition, and site work is absolutely comparable. $79.9 million dollars is a lot, but it is what it takes to build buildings for over 1,800 people in 2018, and there is evidence of that in other local school projects.

Completing the project in multiple stages isn’t logical because waiting delays the benefit of creating a safe and secure campus, and it increases the cost. The buildings are only going to continue to age. Interest rates and inflation are historically low and are expected to increase. A longer building plan with multiple levies and staged construction would significantly increase the cost. It doesn’t make sense to cut out elements of the project either. Every piece of this project is necessary. The gyms will house the physical education courses, the fine arts building will have classrooms and a multipurpose space for assemblies, the classroom spaces will accommodate all of our students and all of the courses and programs, the field and turf will remain a safe space for community members and competition teams, and the field house will address the issue of non-ADA compliant bathrooms and lack of usable space for all female athletes. Most importantly, every year this project is delayed, the cost is expected to rise $2.5 million.

As openly discussed in each open house and on social media, the increase in taxes for a home owner with market value of $100,000 is $24.97 per month or $299.60 per year. Even if the annual amount stayed the same over the 37-year period of the levy, this would total $11,805. But keep in mind bond issues are different than operating levies in that the proceeds are only used to make set bond payments. The county auditor determines the amount of funds that will be needed to make the bond payments and converts the amount into a millage rate. However, as taxable values increase, either through reappraisal or new homes and businesses being built, the millage rate historically decreases.

We want to clarify other misconceptions: (1) The money collected from the bond levy can only be used for construction costs, technology, and furniture. (2) The pool is a separate bond issue on the ballot that includes the building of the pool (.91 mills) and the operation of the pool (.5 mills). If the school levy does not pass, and the pool levy does, the district will not move forward with the pool project. (3) The district has received revenue from oil and gas production, which can fluctuate dramatically from year to year. Based on the current mineral value, the district is expecting to receive approximately $160,000 this year.

As for the state report card, it’s a very complicated formula, and a lot of the elements in that formula are out of the district’s control. Despite the fact that the district has limited facilities, testing spaces, and technology, it received one of the highest grades in Belmont county and met the most indicators out of all the schools in its state legislative district. We were within .8 from meeting three more indicators. The district will continue to strive to improve the score by making curriculum changes and show significant growth as we have in the past two years. Our students are doing amazing things!

Passing this levy will leave a lasting legacy for the children of our community. The time is now to provide schools in our community that will last for generations to come, replacing and renovating school buildings that can’t serve our students. Continue to seek the truth and spread the truth. Visit buildstc.com for accurate and updated information and ways to contact members of Build STC.

Dr. Walt Skaggs

Mike Perkins

Sara Myser

St. Clairsville

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