By Mary Catherine Brooks
Wyoming County Bureau Chief
BRISTOL, Va. —
The Wyoming County excess levy election, more commonly known as the free textbook levy, special election is scheduled for this Saturday when polls across the county will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
If passed, levy funding will be used to increase safety for students and staff as well as provide some after-school transportation for students, according to officials.
The excess levy is added to the regular tax levy residents pay on personal property and is used to fund improvements and supplements to the county school system, including free textbooks and materials for students.
“The excess levy is the lifeblood of the school system,” according to Frank Blackwell, county schools superintendent. “It allows us to hire additional teachers and other personnel. It funds all our extras — athletics, libraries, after-school programs.
“If this levy fails, it will result in drastic cuts in all areas of the school system,” he emphasized.
The levy has been approved by county residents every five years since 1933, according to Blackwell.
The rate — set by the county board of education — remains at 22.95 cents per $100 of assessed property value for Class I property; 45.90 cents on Class II property; 91.80 cents for Class III; and 91.80 cents for Class VI property.
If approved by county voters, this excess levy will generate $7.78 million for the school system over the next five years, providing funding for everything from extra curricular activities, including athletics, to personnel.
The levy will provide money to improve computer labs and school libraries, Blackwell explained, as well as 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. “Some of our schools have systems that, when the power goes off, the phones do too.”
Additionally, security cameras will be installed on every bus and in all schools.
“Cameras solve all kinds of problems,” Blackwell emphasized.
“Cameras also prevent a lot of problems. People, who know they are on camera, will think twice before doing something they shouldn’t be doing.”
Also, the levy monies will provide two-way radios to improve emergency communications between schools, buses and the central office, Blackwell said.
Evening bus runs a couple of times per week will also be added so that schools may provide tutoring to more students.
The buses will be for every student — those who may be working on extra curricular activities, sports, as well as tutoring, the superintendent noted.
“We have a lot of students who need tutoring but have no transportation after school,” Blackwell said. “The evening bus runs will address those situations.”
The excess levy also provides funding for the tutoring programs, after school activities, summer school, and technology education, Blackwell said.
Insurance for any school-related accident for every child will also continue — if the levy is approved, Blackwell said.
A portion of the levy funding also provides money to the county’s public library system, the WVU Extension and 4-H, and the county Health Department to support programs that directly impact school age children, according to Blackwell.
“We will continue to try to offer every opportunity we can for Wyoming County boys and girls,” he emphasized.