Part 2 Pocahontas School Superintendent’s Interview- School Levy Questions
In Part 2 of the recent interview with Pocahontas School Superintendent Terrence Beam we asked some tough questions about the proposed school special levy which will be on November’s election ballot.
I asked Mr. Beam exactly what financial assistance in fixing our schools has the School Building Authority –or SBA- agreed to provide if the school levy passes.
“Well, if the levy passes the SBA has promised us between 11.5 and 12 million dollars for the renovation of 2 particular schools, Green Bank and Marlinton Middle School” said Beam. “And I am not sure if I have ever mentioned this in one of our conversations of not, but one of the things I want to make loud and clear. I had a lady stop me in IGA the other day and said ‘how can we be sure that the Board of Education will spend that money we raise from the levy on the buildings?’ Well, mainly because none of us want to go to prison –because you can’t spend levy money on anything other than exactly what is detailed in the levy call. So that is something citizens don’t need to be concerned about because you cannot do that. And the SBA monitors that closely.”
I asked Mr. Beam to address statements I have heard from citizens that a levy is not needed because there is too much “fat” in the Administration-Central Office Budget. Mr. Beam replied that when Dr. Bechtel resigned last year as Superintendent Mr. Beam took over, but also kept the job he was doing, Director of Federal Programs, and he still does both jobs, saving about$ 90,000.He also cited Mr. Hall who is the Attendance Director, Maintenance Director and Safe Schools Director and since October until recently he was also assigned as Principal at Hillsboro Elementary, saving another 40-45 thousand dollars. In the Central Office there are 5 Secretaries; the Superintendent; the Treasurer, Sherry Radcliff; Ruth Bland, who is both the Transportation Director and the Special Education Director; Ms. Dennison, the Food Service Director- who will be only half time next year and will work also half time as a teacher at the High School; Mr. Hall; and Christina Smith, the Coordinator of Teaching and Learning whose salary is paid 100% from Federal Grant Funds. He points out that each of the Central Office Administrators do several jobs which are filled by separate people in most school districts, making this a “bare bones” Central Office.
I also asked Mr. Beam why the SBA insists that the County pass a levy before providing funds to renovate the schools. Mr. Beam said that the SBA funds are very tight and must be spread over 55 counties for very expensive projects so their philosophy is they will only help those counties who are helping themselves by passing levies.
In response to my question about possible State Budget Cuts, Mr. Beam explained that the 11.5 or 12 million dollars promised to the County for phase 1 – renovating Green Bank and Marlinton Middle are budgeted and committed funds.
I asked him which citizens would pay the school levy if it passes. The answer was only property owners, not renters.
I asked him how much the average homeowner would pay.
“If you own a piece of property or a home that’s worth $100.000 and it is assessed at 60% of that, it comes out at about $125.00 a year for five years” said Beam. “That’s what the levy is – it is no longer than five years. But that is the approximate cost of a hundred thousand dollar home or piece of property. The burden of the expense of the levy is going to fall in most cases on the owners at Snowshoe. The owners at Snowshoe have a lot of property there that’s worth quite a bit of money. They’re the ones that are going to be paying the burden of this tax, and most of those are not citizens of Pocahontas County. But the large majority of our citizens are going to see an increase in taxes, but not a large increase.”
Of course if your property is listed as Agricultural, a lower levy rate would apply.
Finally, I asked about the status of Hillsboro Elementary School if the levy passes.
“We’re trying to protect the integrity of the numbers at Hillsboro by moving the 6th graders back there, so that population will increase another 10 or 15 students down there” said Beam. “There is nothing in the levy call that says anything about closing Hillsboro if it passes. I know there are citizens in our county who wonder why we keep Hillsboro open because of the limited number of students. But there is lots of reasons. The location of it is so far away from the other schools. There are laws that say travel time has to be considered – especially with elementary kids – on how long they are on the bus. But if the levy passes, I think Hillsboro is even more protected than now.”
We hope this answers some of your questions about the possible impact of the proposed levy