Details set for election to renew school levy
The Morgan County School Board approved the order for a special levy election on Saturday, May 11. The action came at their February 5 meeting.
The levy election order keeps the same tax rates as the 2008 order, but has a few category additions and deletions.
The special levy, also known as the excess levy, will be set at 100% of the maximum allowable rate, as in the past. But the school board will decide each year whether to keep the 100% rate or to lower it after budget considerations.
Last year the Morgan County School Board set the special levy at 93.8% for fiscal year 2013. The previous year’s special levy rate was 88.5%.
What’s the special levy?
The five-year special levy is tax money requested in addition to the regular school levy. The school board states in the levy order “that the regular levy will not provide sufficient funds for the payment of current expenses of the Board of Education,” including covering expenditures for the purposes listed in the levy.
The special levy funds instructional materials, equipment, textbooks, salaries and employee benefits, facilities, maintenance, curricular and extracurricular programs and field trips, with some transportation costs. It also provides financial support for community agencies and organizations.
The special levy is not a new tax and has been in existence since 1958 when it was first approved by county voters. It has been renewed by voters every five years since.
Tax rates, property bills
At 100%, the proposed rate of special levy taxation per $100 of assessed value of each class of property remains the same as the 2008 special levy order.
For a home appraised at $200,000 with an assessed value rate of 60% or $120,000, the total property
tax bill would be about $1,348 with the special levy tax at a 100% rate, said School Treasurer Nancy White.
Without the 100% special levy tax, the same homeowner’s property tax bill would be about $797.
These examples are based on homes in the unincorporated county and assume the Morgan County Commission will keep about the same tax rates.
One special levy change is the elimination of the approximate annual $682,350 cost of staff, supplies, equipment and property associated with increased school enrollment since enrollment has declined.
An addition under financial support for community agencies and organizations is the $35,000 cost for a Morgan County Commission Prevention Resource Officer with salary and benefits. The Morgan County Commission bills the school system for Deputy Kevin Barney’s salary and benefits.
The board felt Barney’s position is important, White said. Giving the prevention officer salary a designated line item in the levy order assured its continuation.
Other changes were breaking out the estimated $250,175 yearly cost of 21st Century learning technology and systems and the approximate $215,990 price tag for facility safety and security into separate line items to assure money specifically for those needs.
White said that the School Building Authority had been providing funding for building security, but it had dried up. Safety was a priority.
They were also trying to move toward having a computer for every child to work on at school. Funding would go toward other 21st Century technology like classroom smart boards and infrastructure.
The special levy election order designates the following financial support to other county agencies and organizations: the Morgan County Health Department — $10,000; the Morgan County West Virginia University 4-H extension office — $20,000; the Energy Express Program — $40,000; Morgan County Public Libraries — $65,000; the Morgan Arts Council — $15,000; and Morgan County Parks & Recreation — $25,000.
With the addition of the Prevention Resource Officer salary, the school board’s proposed support for community programs totals $210,000.
The 2014 special levy order projects an approximate $5,862,640 net amount of tax revenue annually through the levy, some $301,959 more yearly revenue from the levy than the estimated $5,560,681 that the 2008 special levy order projected.
While there has been an increase in the estimate of total assessed property values since the last levy order, White noted that property values have been declining since 2010.
Election, early voting
If approved by voters, the proposed special levy would be in effect for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014 through the fiscal year starting July 1, 2018.
White said the school board had wanted to move away from holding the special levy election in the dead of winter. It had previously been held in November or December.
Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 for the special election.
Early voting for the special levy election begins at the Morgan County Clerk’s office on Monday, April 29 and runs through Wednesday, May 8.
The last date to register to vote in the special levy election is Monday, April 22.