Welcome back to Wrong Side of the Mountain, my column about what makes Boone County a good or bad place to live, depending on your perspective.
For many years, regardless of where I’ve lived, the debate over an excess school levy seems to come up. Well, it comes up but far more times than not, it is supported.
A levy can always be a complicated ball of yarn for voters so I thought I would address the Boone County Schools excess levy that is on tap for special election on Saturday, Nov. 2.
Early bird voters can punch their ticket through tomorrow, Oct. 30 or you can vote in your regular precinct on Saturday.
The continuation of the levy is set to provide $5.6 million to the school system. Now, keep in mind that this is projected. We all have to pay our taxes for that to be accurate, including businesses and large corporations who operate on our soil.
Just to be clear, the excess levy has been in place since 1947 and according to courthouse records, it has not failed to pass in any year since.
So for the first falsehood I’ve had to break down at least two dozen times,
the continuation of the levy WILL NOT increase your property taxes. That rate is already in place. The only change would come if the continuation of the levy is not passed, which would DECREASE your property taxes.
The regular levy rate (per $100) in Boone County is 38.80 for Class II, which is real estate/personal property. For the excess levy, it is 45.90. This is all public record and is easily accessible to all citizens.
So what does this mean to your wallet?
For example, via the Boone County Assessor’s Office and the formula that calculates personal property tax; if the continuation of the excess levy passes, a home in the Class II Madison municipality valued at $100,000 will pay $985.20 in personal property taxes. If the continuation of the levy does not pass, you will pay $709.80. This is a difference of $275.40.
So, I’ve heard people say that they don’t have children in the school system or that their kids are grown so they aren’t concerned about the levy passing.
Are you kidding me?
I voted for the continuation of the levy this morning via early voting at the Boone County Courthouse and I want to explain why. My daughter doesn’t attend school in Boone County so my inspiration doesn’t come from wanting her to have a quality education here in Boone County.
The levy does help to recruit qualified teachers, to continue a $2,000 supplement in pay for all employees which retains quality educators, provide additional funding for instructional supplies, textbooks, school safety initiatives, building repair, capital improvements, investment in technology and much needed support for free meals for all students in our county.
I want my nieces and nephews, my neighbors’ children and YOUR children to have access to all of these things and receive the education they deserve. I also want to attract quality, certified educators to Boone County and retain the ones who travel US 119 to teach in Kanawha and Putnam Counties every morning.
There is a lot of talk about how Boone County will move into the future. It starts here, folks. It starts with education and it starts with retention.
In March, a much larger $16 million excess school levy failed in Randolph County by a nearly two to one margin where 3,726 votes were cast against the levy and 1,903 votes were cast in favor. Their excess levy had failed to pass four times in recent years.
Approximately half of that levy was marked for educational purposes. Perhaps what stung some citizens in Randolph was that the other half of the levy centered around athletics, which included the application of new artificial turf at multiple facilities and funding for the completion of a new gym at Tygarts Valley Middle/High School.
Now, it is no secret that Boone County Schools has been negotiating a deal with the county that would include the school system purchasing or leasing Lick Creek Park. This is where Scott High’s softball team plays their WVSSAC sanctioned games. How much, if any of the excess levy will be used to pay for this? Keep in mind, we aren’t putting turf on our existing fields, we are securing dirt for our girls to play on and our financially strapped county is looking to dump underused property faster than me in a hot dog eating contest.
Now, to squash another untruth I’ve heard bantered about.
The uses of the excess levy funds are very specific and outlined in the levy call. There is no provision in the outlined purpose of the excess Levy that provides for land acquisition (purchase). With this being said, the board could not legally use any funds generated by the excess levy to purchase property.
Via email, Dr. Lisa Beck answered my question regarding the situation.
“If the construction of a new softball facility becomes necessary, it is conceivable that a limited amount of revenue generated by the Excess Levy could be used toward such construction as provided for in the levy call,” she said. “However, we believe that we will be able to work with the Boone County Commission and identify a manner that affords Scott High School and Madison Middle School Softball Teams to continue to practice and play at the park located at Lick Creek.”
For the sake of clarity, if the excess levy passes, your property taxes will not increase.
I hope that this column may answer some questions that you have regarding our school system’s excess levy and why it is so important that we CONTINUE to invest in ourselves. A healthy local economy begins with a healthy school system and I believe this is an important step forward for Boone County. I strongly encourage you to consider supporting it.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-307-2401.