By Mary Catherine Brooks
Wyoming County Bureau Chief
Wyoming County voters have today and Tuesday to register if they are interested in voting in the upcoming special excess levy election, according to County Clerk Mike Goode, who serves as the county’s chief elections officer.
More commonly known as the free textbook levy, the special election is scheduled Nov. 2, when polls across the county will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Voter registration is conducted in the county clerk’s office in the courthouse.
Early voting begins Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the courthouse lobby for the special election.
Early voting will continue through Oct. 30 during regular courthouse hours: Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.; Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.; and, for early voting only, Saturday, Oct. 19 and Oct. 26, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
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 cost of textbooks is skyrocketing, according to Blackwell, and prices currently range from $50 to $130 per textbook per student.
“Imagine if you had to buy six or eight textbooks for each child,” he said. “The costs would likely be more than $500 per child.”
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 extracurricular 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 said.
“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 extracurricular 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, WVU Extension and 4-H, and the Health Department to support programs that directly impact school age children, according to Blackwell.
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