Vote ‘Yes’ for Excess Levy
As proud parents and residents of Jefferson County we urge everyone to make sure they go to the polls on Dec. 12 and vote “YES” for the continuation of the Excess Levy. This is NOT a new tax nor an increase in taxes: the Excess Levy has been in place at the exact same rate since 1946, and is renewed every five years by the citizens of Jefferson County.
We have outstanding schools in Jefferson County that consistently outperform the State average in mathematics and English Language Arts in every single grade level tested, and Jefferson High was ranked #3 in the State last year by U.S. News and World Report. And we excel not just academically the Shepherdstown Middle School Jazz and Concert bands have both repeatedly been named best in the State, as have the Cougars’ Marching and Symphonic bands. And has any other High School in the State won 9 State championships in baseball? Perhaps most amazingly, Jefferson County Schools produce this kind of results at a lower cost, in terms of per pupil expenditure, than the majority of school districts in our State.
As proud parents we can say it’s because we have amazing kids (we do!). But even amazing kids need great teachers, coaches, libraries, technology, substitutes, books and more to realize these kinds of results. And that’s exactly what the Excess Levy pays for. It represents 22 percent of the total budget of Jefferson County schools and nonrenewal would have a devastating impact on our students and our community as a whole. Particularly on the extracurricular activities that are so important to so many children.
Critical library funding also depends on the levy. Jefferson County is a part of the Greater Washington DC metro area, the only county in West Virginia to be so designated, and we share the designation with Loudoun, Frederick and Clarke counties. We are politically and geographically a part of West Virginia, economically we belong to the Greater Washington D.C. metro area. Yet, the funding of our libraries is dismal. Our local government funding is less than $6.00 per capita. The average in the United States is $32.05 per capita; in West Virginia, 49th in the nation in funding libraries, about $14 per capita. If we wish to provide an intellectually competitive environment for our children, our level of library funding must be on a par with our neighbor counties who spend on average more than $34.50 per capita. To match our neighboring counties, Jefferson County would need to provide libraries at least an additional $28.50 per capita. Our children deserve better. Libraries are simply another classroom, where both students and adults can explore and dream about the world in which they live-on their own terms.
We need to ensure the levy is renewed again and we can’t take it for granted that it will pass: Look now at your calendar and if you won’t be able to make it to the polls on Saturday, Dec. 12, make sure you send in an absentee ballot or participate in the early voting the week before. Our kids can’t vote so they need your help. Even if you are not a parent or your kids have left the nest the importance of quality schools cannot be overemphasized. Strong schools encourage families to move and stay here which builds the community and creates a healthy economy. If you think your vote doesn’t count or think “of course this will pass, it makes sense.” the levy just failed in Randolph County.
Mark Cucuzzella MD
Professor, West Virginia University School of Medicine
Local Business Owner, Two Rivers Treads
Roberta L. DeBiasi MD,MS
Professor of Pediatrics
The George Washington University School of Medicine