The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 25, 2013

Raleigh County BOE weighs levy at meeting

By Jessica Farrish
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — At the first public hearing Thursday concerning the possible issue of a bond call and continuation of an existing excess levy, Raleigh County Board of Education members and Superintendent Jim Brown heard from two educators and the parent of a child with special needs.

The excess levy renews every five years, supports athletics, textbooks, student health services, technology, the arts, the library and other instructional necessities.

Bonds are used to renovate, build and repair facilities.

Penny Carrico, principal of Shady Spring Elementary School, told the board that her school needs to have a gymnasium and new classrooms added to accommodate her 544 students.

Currently, 140 of her students must use six classrooms that are located in a portable building on school property.

“The doors to the classrooms lock, but the students have to go in and out to use restrooms; there’s no water out there,” reported Carrico. “They are gated, but we have to leave those gates open during the day because of the fire marshal and fire codes.”

Her school is also growing, she said, with students from Glade Springs and W.Va. 3 subdivisions entering it.

Joe McDougal, a vocational teacher at Shady Spring High School, told BOE members they would have the support of SSHS teachers, who would speak with people in the community and talk about the needs of a bond for SSHS.

McDougal said around eight teachers have to “float” from classroom to classroom, and there are four classrooms located outside of the school facility.

One father of a Daniels Elementary School student who has juvenile diabetes asked the BOE to support student health services in any upcoming excess levy call.

The levy issued in 2009 allocated $200,000 for health services for special needs students, according to Raleigh Schools Treasurer Darrin Butcher.

“Because of that (allocation), he does get to experience a regular day at school, safely, the way any other child (would),” he said.

He asked BOE members to consider additional allocation for student health services.

“I believe they make a huge difference in the lives of children and, in some situations, can literally be life or death,” said the parent.

BOE Vice President Larry Ford urged voters to pass the bond call and to continue the excess levy.

“We can’t pass it without the community’s support,” he said. “If everybody in your communities rally with you, your neighbors, your friends, your relatives, we can pass the bond, we can pass the levy,” said Ford. “They’re both very important to the school system.”

The last bond was issued in 1999 and paid off in 2009, and Butcher said there are no outstanding bonds in the county now.

“You will probably find out that the amount of our bond call...will yield a whole lot more, dollar for dollar, today because of growth in our county,” said Snuffer. “A larger bond isn’t a lot more cost for the taxpayer.

“Raleigh County has been blessed with economic growth,” he added. “To continue economic growth, you’ve got to have good schools.”

The last levy call was for $17 million and currently issues around $22 million annually.

Committees will advise the BOE on how the extra $5 million should be spent in the county.

Continuing the excess levy will not result in an additional tax base for community members, Brown said.

On Nov. 12, levy and bond committees formed last month will make their final reports to the BOE, and board members will start the process of establishing the figures for the bond call.

The next public meeting will be Tuesday at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center at 5:30 p.m.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com