The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

November 27, 2013

Raleigh BOE OKs details of excess levy, bond call election

BECKLEY — Tuesday evening’s Raleigh County Board of Education meeting set the wheels in motion on two critical funding sources for the county school system: the Raleigh County excess levy and the facility bond call.

While one is essential for maintaining necessary student services, the other outlines funding needs for several necessary facility improvements, including building renovations, additions and new school construction.

According to Raleigh County Schools Superintendent Jim Brown, the approval of the bond call and excess levy can very well dictate the context of many future BOE conversations, all hinging on Raleigh County voters at the special election in February.   

“This election will be twofold. The first part will be to reinitiate our excess levy, a continuation of the existing call that’s been in place since 1941,” Brown said.

Brown explained that the excess levy is crucial to the overall process of the Raleigh County educational system.

 The excess levy supports student services such as free textbooks, technology integration, athletic programs and staffing, and salary support, among others. The total amount necessary to maintain the listed purposes over the next five fiscal years is the sum of $22.4 million, annually.

Programs new to the excess levy this year include two student service programs: truancy diversion/dropout prevention and universal pre-K support.

“It’s critical that we have this excess levy in place,” Brown said. “There’s not an alternate funding source to complement and provide the level of services that we have in our school system.”

The continuation of the additional levies will be part of the county’s special election ballot on Feb. 8.

The BOE also approved a facility bond call Tuesday which, if passed by Raleigh County voters in February, will call for some extensive construction at several Raleigh County schools in the near future.

Brown explained that the BOE has begun to tackle some of the high-priority projects associated with the updated Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan in the facility bond call.

While the entire plan calls for $157 million worth of work, the BOE approved a $39 million facility bond call Tuesday which, if supported by Raleigh County voters in February, will build two new elementary schools, incorporate air conditioning in four elementary schools, add security entrance upgrades in two high schools and make structural additions to Shady Spring Elementary.

More specifically, the first series of bond call projects include:

1) Adding security entrance upgrades to Liberty and Independence high schools — estimated costs require $234,323 in bond funds;

2) Building a new elementary school formed by the consolidation of Lester, Crab Orchard and Sophia Soak Creek elementary schools — estimated costs require $685,000 in local funds, $12.2 million in bond funds and a $12 million School Building Authority (SBA) grant;

3) Adding air conditioning to Cranberry-Prosperity, Crescent, Mabscott and Ghent elementary schools — estimated costs require $500,643 in local funds and $2 million in bond funds; and

4) Additions to Shady Spring Elementary including classrooms and a gymnasium to accommodate the expanding student population in the area — estimated costs require $997,659 in local funds and $8.7 million in bond funds.

The proposed bond issue for the first series of projects totals an estimated $23 million.

The second series of projects included in the bond call includes:

1) Additions to Shady Spring High School, including a new competition gymnasium, classroom additions and a dining room expansion — estimated costs require $1.5 million in local funds, $7.6 million in bond funds and a $6.5 million SBA grant;

2) A gymnasium addition for Beckley Elementary — estimated costs require $238,612 in local funds and $1.5 million in bond funds;

3) Construction of a new Stratton Elementary to be built on the site of the existing school — estimated costs require $5.3 million in local funds, $7.6 million in bond funds and a $5 million SBA grant.

The proposed bond issue for the second series of projects totals an estimated $16.7 million.

Brown explained that while it is a $39 million bond call, the work will actually total $72 million when incorporating local funds and grants requested of the SBA.

Brown said that on Dec. 2, he will be submitting a “Needs Project” requesting $23.5 million from the SBA.

He explained that the project is a partnership not only between the BOE and the taxpayers of Raleigh County, but also with the SBA.

Brown said that in preliminary discussions, the SBA has been very supportive of the program that the school system put in place.

If the SBA does approve the plan and fund the facility projects, a process will be set into motion, and construction could potentially begin using local funds — totaling approximately $10 million — within several months, Brown explained.

 “If for some reason, either entity does not approve, whether the voters of Raleigh County or the SBA, then we go back to square one,” Brown said.

Brown insists that the timing is right to being making some of these necessary improvements.

“We do know that the price of construction doesn’t go down,” Brown said. “The increase we’ve been told is three percent every year.”

 With 30 percent added to construction costs within 10 years, Brown stresses that now is the time to act.

“It’s expensive, but it is most definitely needed,” Brown said. “School facilities contribute 20 percent to the overall achievement of students. Right now we have some schools that were built in the early ’30s, and to be quite honest, (those facilities) are struggling to meet the needs of students today.”

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

1
Text Only
Local News