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Excess levy by the numbers

By Staff | Oct 16, 2015

Toni Milbourne

Chronicle Editor

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a proposed series of stories regarding the Jefferson County Board of Education’s 2015 excess levy.

Jefferson County voters will make their way to the polls for a special election Dec. 12 to determine if the Board of Education’s proposed Excess Levy for 2015 will pass or fail. The levy has been in existence and does not increase the amount of taxes imposed on citizens, but rather continues what they have been paying for the levy. In fact, the levy will actually see a decrease of $949,093 compared to the current levy that was approved by voters in 2010.

These excess levy funds are in addition to the general tax funds allocated to the Board of Education.

These excess levy funds are distributed in a variety of ways within the overall Board of Education budget. A breakdown of those distributions provided by Beth Marrone, treasurer of Jefferson County Schools, shows that of the proposed $19,146,219 for the 2015 levy, $30,000 of that will be allocated to the WVU Extension Services while $90,000 will go to the three public libraries in the county. Both of these entities contribute to the education of students within the county and have been deemed worthwhile recipients of levy funds.

In addition, $820,000 of the funds will be used for instructional, media and technology materials for students while $425,000 will go to materials and supplies specific to each school. The amount of $1.25 million serves to cover costs for professional development, national certifications and other teacher/service personnel benefits.

The final number on the initial budget description sets $16,531,219 shown as salary assistance for teachers and service personnel not covered under the state formula and substitutes.

Marrone spent a good deal of time this week explaining exactly what is covered int hat $16+ million dollar price tag.

While the state aid formula to pay teachers is set at the state level, Jefferson County chose, in the early 1980s, to increase the amount paid to teachers in an effort to address locality pay issues. The additional funds used to help hire and then retain qualified teachers come from the excess levy. The proposed 2015 levy sees $4 million going to that county versus state pay scale.

In addition, Marrone explained that both professional and service personnel who have extended contracts, meaning that they work in excess of the 200 day school year, receive pay for their additional days from the levy. $2.5 million of the funds within that $16+ million total go to paying those who work extra days including band teachers, vocational staff (FFA, FBLA, etc.). While some staffers are on an extended calendar that is approved by the state and covered by the state aid formula, many are not, Marrone said.

Supplemental pay to individuals who serve as coaches, club sponsors, and department chairs also comes from the excess levy. The state does not see such positions as required positions; therefore they are not covered by state funding from general taxes. Stipends for these individuals are minimal, totaling only $1.5 million over all the schools within the county.

The excess levy also allows the Board of Education to provide additional competitive pay compensation to county staffers. The supplement that is spread throughout the year as the extra pay for professional and service personnel is based on years of service. For example, a professional personnel member (teacher) who has served in the county for 4-9 years receives an additional $1,750 per year in salary. A service personnel worker with the same amount of time receives an additional $960. Those with higher levels of service receive higher levels of compensation; however, even those with 20 or more years of service on the professional level only receive an additional $3,025 while on the service personnel side, they receive $2,160.

In addition to those funds added to the annual salary, employees receive a one-time levy supplement each November. Those amounts range from $500 to $2,000 on the professional level and from $250 to $1,100 on the service side depending upon years of service. The total proposed to be expended from the excess levy this year for these funds is $1.5 million.

The remaining $6.5 million of the $16+ million covers positions above state required. These positions are not seen as necessary by the state and are therefore not funded in the state aid formula.

Found in the list of positions not covered by general taxes are elementary school librarians, art teachers, music teachers, nurses and physical education teachers.

When studying and becoming certified to teach elementary education, Marrone explained, future teachers are trained to teach art or music or physical education in the elementary schools. Therefore, the state does not deem it a requirement to have specialized teachers in those roles.

In Jefferson County, Marrone shared, there are 17 librarians, 10 nurses or guidance counselors, 11 art teachres, 11 music teachers, 15 physical education teachers and four driver’s education teachers who do not fall under the state aid formula. Their salaries are paid via this $6.5 million of the excess levy.

Should the levy not pass, Marrone, said, these positions would be in danger.

Additional questions on the excess levy and the Board of Education’s budget in general can be addressed to Marrone at the Central Office. Complete copies of the budgets may be found on the Board of Education website.