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Majority of Board of Education say special election not the right path

By Staff | Jul 26, 2019

CHARLES TOWN — After canceling an Oct. 26 date to hold a special election for the purpose of passing a bond, the Jefferson County Board of Education again had the topic on their agenda for their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday.

“Action on approval of special election for the bond,” was met with much discussion among the five board members. Board Chair Kathryn Skinner told her fellow board members their hired bond counsel had recommended the group once again plan for a special election on the bond issue, rather than waiting for the May 2020 primary election.

“Our bond counsel recommends December 2019. If we wait until May 2020, we miss the tax rolls which puts us two years down the road,” Skinner said, mentioning there are so many projects the board needs to work on, that waiting until May 2020 will cause a shift in the planning and completion of those projects.

Mark Everhart, a member of Shepherdstown’s Town Council and a candidate for the 67th Delegate District, urged the board to not plan a special election, but rather place the bond issue on the 2020 primary election ballot. He pointed out that Skinner had previously stated that some of the projects that are allegedly to be paid for with the approved bond have already been started.

“Kathy Skinner said that if the bond doesn’t pass, the board would have to use money in their savings to pay for them,” Everhart said, mentioning Skinner had previously said it would be two-three years before any construction on new projects could begin. “There is no immediate need, and there would not be a negative impact to wait. Your use of taxpayer dollars is a privilege, not a right.”

Other members of the governing body said a bond would likely not pass if run on a special election ballot.

“I don’t think a bond will fly in this county by spending $80-to-90,000 for a special election,” said Mark Osbourn. “I don’t think we have a chance of this bond passing.”

Laurie Ogden agreed with Osbourn, but said that she and other bond opposers must face the consequences.

“Shepherdstown Elementary School can stay at 56 degrees for two years and Ranson Elementary can have no air conditioning if that’s what the community decides,” Ogden said. “We don’t have a choice.”

According to Arthena Roper, the Board of Education needs to mend fences with the community.

“There has been a lot hurt feelings over this past year,” Roper said. “We have some bridge building to do and over the next nine months we can meet at a happy medium.”

Skinner was the only board member to not agree with the idea of placing the bond issue on the May 2020 primary ballot rather than spending the funds for a special election.

“Nobody likes taxes, but they are a necessary evil,” Skinner said. “We need air conditioning that works, and we can’t take that out of our operating budget.”

The discussion was tabled until the next board meeting.