School officials stress importance of levy passage
As the date approaches for Jefferson County’s special election on the excess levy, the School Board wants to make sure everyone has accurate information regarding levy details.
“I just want to reiterate that this is not a new tax,” said School Board President, Scott Sudduth at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon where the levy was the topic of conversation. “This is a renewal of a commitment voters have made since 1946 and we are not asking you to pay any more for property taxes than you already pay.”
Chamber President, Amy Panzarella said she wanted the business leaders and Chamber members to have the chance to ask any questions they might have regarding the levy, and to clear up any misconceptions that people might have.
Jefferson County Chamber executive director, Heather McIntyre underscored the importance of having a good school system as it relates to business and area growth.
“The chamber feels it is very important to have great education for our students so they can, in return, become business leaders and stay in Jefferson County,” McIntyre said. “Also, for our business community, it’s very important that we have good education [system] to bring new businesses into our area. That’s one critical factor people think about when deciding to relocate to a new area.”
Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson, school superintendent, was also in attendance and provided a brief overview of Jefferson County school standings with regard to the rest of the state.
“According to the most recent state testing, Jefferson County ranked third in the state in reading and language arts scores, and fifth overall in math,” Gibson said, “but we feel that we can do better than that. We are not and will not going to make any excuses about the students, about the families, about the standards, or about the money. At the end of the day, these kids get one shot and they deserve the best that we have; no excuses.”
Dr. Gibson went on to explain that all revenue sources for the schools have declined and the levy itself has decreased due to a slight downturn in property values. As such, cuts have already been made, but they have all been at the central office. Gibson said that not a dime has been cut from school programs or staff.
“So far, we have made the entire one percent cut (from the budget shortfall) and we have not cut a dime out of schools.” Gibson said. “We previously had the third largest central office in the state. We’re now 20th. We have taken the responsibility on ourselves to say that we are going to be efficient.”
School board member Kathy Skinner addressed the reasons for a special election. She said that due to state mandates and restrictions, all the budgeting must be done by early spring, which doesn’t leave time to have the levy election in conjunction with the primaries in May.
“What we would have to do–pretty much to sum it up in a nutshell–is send out $18 million worth of pink slips. The bottom of it could say ‘your job is still going to be here if the levy passes’ and if I get a pink slip like that, you think I am just going to hang out and wait to see if the levy passes? No, I am going to start looking for a job somewhere else,” Skinner said.
She added that if the county loses teaching personnel, it would be very difficult to get them back.
Skinner went on to stress the importance of voting for the levy, and to vote early in case of inclement weather on Dec. 12.
“Supporting the levy and voting for the levy are two entirely different things,” Skinner said. “If you do not go out and vote, the levy will not pass. The last major special election in the county only saw 14 percent voter turnout. This election could go either way by five votes.”
Early voting at the courthouse is Nov. 28 to Dec. 9, every day except Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday early voting is is Nov. 28 to Dec. 5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Election day is Dec. 12 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
More information on levy, including frequently asked questions can be found at boe.jeff.k12.wv.us/Levy2015