The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 28, 2013

Vote for ‘extras’

The Register-Herald

— It is pretty much a universal belief that children should have the best education available — and be able to secure that education in a safe, secure environment, that also has its carefree moments.

To help ensure the “extras” that make those things reality, many school systems have for years had what are known as excess levies. An excess levy is added to the regular tax level that people pay on personal property, usually a few cents for every $100 of assessed value.

On a periodic schedule, a county will ask its voters to approve the excess levy for another few years. This fall, Greenbrier and Wyoming counties will put the levy to their citizens. We urge voters to support the schools — and by extension, their children — by voting “yes” to re-issuing the levies.

 Generally, the excess levy is set at the same rate every year, so there is no worry about seeing your personal property taxes soar as long as you don’t buy anything to extravagant. But, what is most important, are those “extras” for which the levies provide.

In Greenbrier County, the levy accounts for about 13 percent of the school system’s general current expense budget. The levy funds such items as security services, instructional materials, art and music programs, lab supplies, employment of personnel outside the school aid formula, building repairs, maintenance and utilities and extracurricular programs.

For Wyoming County, where the excess levy has been approved every five years since 1933, it provides improved computer labs and school libraries. Superintendent Frank Blackwell said it will also add equipment to improve safety for students and staff.

“We will install a telephone land line, at every school, that works even when the power is off,” Blackwell said.

Levy monies will provide two-way radios to improve emergency communications among schools, buses and the central office as well as security cameras on buses and in all schools. In this day and time in which we live, these added measures are no small thing. Without the excess levy, they won’t be available. Another perk for such a rural county, the levy will enable a bus run a couple of times a week, not only for extracurricular activities and sports, but for students who need tutoring services, as well.  

The list of what great things an excess levy pays for goes on and on. But it is also important for voters to realize what it does not.

Excess levies cannot be used for new school construction. That can only come from a different kind of levy — a bond levy. The two are in no way related.

In February, Fayette County voters passed its excess levy with 71 percent approval. Raleigh will call on its voters next year to re-issue the levy and Monroe County’s comes due again in 2015. Summers County has not had one since 1982 and its last attempt to pass one was in 1998.

Greenbrier Countians will vote on their excess levy on Oct. 5; Wyoming County’s vote is in November.

Those days will be here in a flash. We ask that you keep your schools functioning in the best ways possible.

Vote for the excess levies.