By Katie Kuba
Upshur Bureau Chief
BUCKHANNON - Early voting is already underway for the levy renewal proposal Upshur County residents will see on the ballot Feb. 8.
Still, at the last Upshur County Board of Education meeting prior to the vote on the proposal, Superintendent of Upshur County Schools Roy Wager once again touted the benefits of renewing the levy.
"This is not a new tax," Wager emphasized Tuesday at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School. "This is just a continuation of what we have. We are not raising anybody's taxes. Those people over 65 that have the Homestead Exemption will continue to have that exemption so they get some relief with that."
The renewal of the levy - which would raise $3,346,000 annually beginning July 1, 2014, and ending June 30, 2019 - makes up 9 percent of the school system's budget.
Specifically, if the levy is renewed, $800,000 would be used annually for instructional programs, supplies and materials and equipment. About $1 million would be put toward capital improvements and preventive maintenance; $500,000 would pay the salaries of substitute teachers; $346,000 would be spent on extracurricular activities; and $200,000 would be allocated for contracted services, such as crossing guards, prevention resource officers, or PROs, at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and Buckhannon-Upshur High School, athletic trainers and technology services.
PROs are especially valuable because, as sheriff's deputies, "they bridge that gap between law enforcement and students," Wager said. Grant funding for those positions diminishes every year, which is why part of levy funds would be allocated to support their salaries, he added.
Another $50,000 would support student-related community services. These levy funds would provide for free admission to regular school extracurricular events for all students enrolled in Upshur County schools, Wager said. Any Upshur County resident age 60 or over would likewise gain free admission to all regular school extracurricular activities in the county with a specially issued pass.
To learn more about the levy, visit www.upshurcountyschools.com. Early voting at the Upshur County Courthouse Annex continues through Feb. 5.
In other business, Director of Facilities Keith Moran reported that four bids returned for the school system's Major Improvement Plan - the goal of which is to improve the heating systems in three schools - were well above what had been allocated in the budget. Those bids were approximately $1.5 million over budget, Moran said.
"All the bids came above the budget number," Moran told the board, "so right now we're in the process of reassessing what we would like to do in every facet just everything's open now, whether we remove things out of the project, whether we just rebid the project, whether we go a different road. There's just a lot of discussion right now."
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at IMT_Kuba.