AMR hosts public forum on the Pocahontas school levy on the November ballot
Pocahontas county school employees and other concerned citizens have been holding meetings this week around the county to disseminate information about the school levy on the ballot for the upcoming election on Tuesday November 4th. Allegheny Mountain Radio held a public forum on the topic on October 29th at the WVMR studio with guests Rachel Tompkins, Sherry Radcliff and Mike Holstine.
County schools Treasurer/Financial officer Sherry Radcliff gives an overview of what’s covered in the levy.
“There are items in here that will pertain to our maintenance, security and safety of our schools,” said Radcliff. “Items for our vocational program; we also have funds for our athletic and band programs and extracurricular activities. We have alternative education which also includes advance placement and the extended year education and those are particularly used in the high school and alt ed is also used in our 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. We have allotted funds in the pre-school services, which most of that is unfunded.”
“We have some money set aside for our instructional supplies, and technology and materials; our library service which our school uses, we also use 4-H and Energy Express services. We have health services, our fire service and we have put money in there for senior citizens services as well. And the total is close to 1.8 million dollars.”
Of that total, approximately 1.3 million is earmarked for maintenance, safety and security of the county schools. Mike Holstine, President of the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce said a group of businesses in the county formed a levy group to discuss what could be done to improve county schools. One of the items discussed is improving the physical facilities; something Holstine knows well from serving on the schools facility planning committee for the last two decades.
“For each of the planning periods that we’ve had the committee, there have been specific projects,” said Holstine, “the Hillsboro [elementary] cafeteria, roofing for the schools, electrical upgrades in the schools and some of those have been able to be accomplished and some haven’t. The ones that have not, we have asked the SBA, the [WV] School Building Authority for money several times and they turn us down. Because one, they specifically ask if this county has a levy and the answer is no, and the second is do you have matching funds because the School Building Authority doesn’t fund percent. Well the answer to that is no too.”
Add to that years of deferred maintenance in the schools and the reason why this line item is so large becomes a little clearer. Holstine said with the prospect of a much longer school year, meaning classes could start earlier in August and go later in June, keeping the schools cool also becomes much more important. Only one of the five schools currently has air conditioning, the high school which has individual window units.
“But that is going to be a real issue, having especially the elementary and middle school kids in these extremely hot classrooms, because the security side of things requires that teachers keep doors and windows closed,” said Holstine. “So there’s not even air movement through some of these classrooms. Air conditioning alone doesn’t solve the issue because air conditioning in the schools isn’t possible without electrical upgrades to the same facilities.”
Holstine said the levy would provide the county with the 10 – 20 percent match usually required by the SBA for projects to improve the schools and provide the correct atmosphere for learning. This line item in the proposed levy comprises 62 percent of the total levy amount.
Radcliff offers some information about the levy line item for athletics.
“No athletics is covered through state or federal funds,” she said, “so that’s all county or the schools and donations by many businesses; you’re out fundraising all the time. But it will provide uniforms in a rotation basis and it will help for bus expenses; 8 miles to a gallon is what we get on a bus. We also have money in there for coaches, but the main part was the equipment purchases that they don’t have.”
“We have a lot of students that want to take field trips, so this money would also be for that. We only get about 6000.00 total in funding to allow for academic trips. Well, we do a lot. If you want to go anywhere outside the county, that’s quite a bit and so they have to find money for themselves.”
Tune in for noon hour on Friday for more from the AMR public forum on the school levy including a call from a listener and information about the impact on taxes.