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Editorial: First need for Wayne schools: passage of levy

Nov. 04, 2013 @ 11:27 AM

The Wayne County Schools system is in a bit of an uproar currently, and that may be putting it mildly.

Excess levy election

Wayne County voters are being asked to renew the county school system’s excess levy for five more years in an election this month. Here are when and where people may vote.

* Early voting: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, through Wednesday, Nov. 20 (excluding Sundays), at Wayne County Courthouse.

* Election Day: 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, at voters’ usual precinct locations.

Parents, teachers, students and school officials themselves are trying to sort out the implications of a recently announced plan by administrators to reconfigure schools in the northern part of the county on a temporary basis while funding is sought for a more permanent solution to the system’s school needs.

That proposal involves closing down one school, now housed in temporary modular classrooms, and shuffling students to other schools starting next fall. Meanwhile, school officials suggest that a bond proposal be voted on next spring that, combined with state money, would allow for the construction of two new schools. One would serve Ceredo and Kenova, to replace a school closed three years ago because of a sinkhole and since conducted in portable buildings, and another would be in Crum in the southern part of the county. The schools in Crum have major issues with heating and air conditioning systems, sewage system, basement flooding and cracks in the walls.

Public meetings on the proposal brought out hundreds of people who voiced concerns about the temporary restructuring for Ceredo and Kenova schools. Included were their fears that it could become a permanent situation. School system officials have responded with a willingness to explore their concerns and listen to any alternatives they might have.

While all that plays out in the weeks ahead, people in Wayne County face another decision related to schools that in the short-term is even more urgent — and one they shouldn’t lose sight of amid the current uncertainty. That’s the election this month on whether to renew Wayne County Schools’ excess levy, a tax that has been in place for more than six decades. To continue, it must be approved by county voters every five years, and this year it comes before voters again.

Passage of the levy will not raise school property taxes beyond their current level. However, its defeat would be devastating to the Wayne County school system’s current operations and could well doom the chances for moving forward on any plan to build new schools.

The levy generates about $8.9 million a year, which supports about 13 percent of Wayne County Schools’ total operating budget. The excess levy fills the funding gap between the cost of the services provided to students and the money available from state aid and local property taxes.

 The levy helps pay for textbooks, library books, classroom supplies, computers, assistance with playgrounds and Local School Improvement projects, extracurricular activities and student health services. It also supplements the maintenance budget and the hiring of sufficient staff members. Part of the revenue generated by the levy goes to the Wayne County Public Library, Wayne County Extension Service, Safety Town and Wayne County Health Department.

The loss of this funding also would cripple the school system’s ability to set aside money for a local funding match likely to be required by the state before it contributes to the building of new schools.

Wayne County residents have seen fit to support their schools by approving this levy since 1950. We urge them not to be distracted by the other issues swirling around the county schools and back this levy again. That will allow the school system to maintain its current level of services and work to tackle its ongoing building challenges.



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