As one of only 11 counties in the state without a levy, the Pocahontas County board of education discussed a proposed levy at the board meeting Monday night.
The proposed levy, if passed, will provide $1.8 million a year for five years for school programs and school facilities.
A levy committee has been organized to focus on priorities of the funding.
“I put it in the order that they thought was most relevant,” treasurer Sherry Radcliff said. “They thought vocational was the number one priority. They all thought the athletic and band was two and maintenance and security was three. Vocational was the most important because it drives the economy in our county.”
In the proposed levy, vocational education will receive an annual amount of $100,000. The athletic and band programs $250,000, and maintenance and security an approximate amount of $1,137,843. Other programs on the list include alternative education, preschool services, library services, 4-H and Energy Express services, health services, fire services and senior citizens services.
At the forefront of the discussion was the concern over raising taxes in the county. Committee member and AFT [American Federation of Teachers] representative John Estep said that the community will back the levy if they are informed correctly and they understand the importance of the funding.
“It has to touch everybody in the community,” Estep said. “There has to be an accountability for each person. If we don’t go out there and give them the proper information and all of us are on the same page – I wouldn’t vote for it if there’s misinformation out there. If everything is put forth in a positive manner and the board understands what’s going on, and Emery is saying the same thing I am, people are going to support this because they’re going to support the kids.”
If the levy passes, it will allow the school system to improve the programs provided in all the schools and will keep the board afloat in a time where funding is scarce.
The board relies on the Safe and Secure Rural Schools funding, most commonly known as forestry money. In the past few years, the funding has decreased and is no longer guaranteed. If Congress votes against the funding, Pocahontas County schools stands to lose an estimated $400,000 a year.
Board president Emery Grimes explained the stark reality of losing that funding.
“We just built a $1.4 million cafeteria in Hillsboro and if that SRS money does not come through, it’s going to be used by the community because we’ll have to shut that school down,” Grimes said. “That’s what it means if this levy does not come through. That’s what keeps that school operating. There’s no way we can do it for 84, 85 children. Hillsboro community needs to realize that and get behind it because that’s what it’s going to take.”
With the security of a levy, the loss of the federal funding will not be as big an issue as it would be without the levy.
Grimes added that if the board loses the federal funding and the levy does not pass, the board will be operating in the red. If a county board of education operates at a loss, the State Department of Education takes over the system and re-evaluates every employee and line item in the budget.
The board approved moving forward with the levy with a 3-1 vote. Board member Cheryl Beverage voted against the levy as it stands because she would like to see more funding in the vocational department.
• Service personnel spokes person Mary Dilley requested that the board find someone to offer training for Hillsboro Elementary School secretary Dorthie Shamblin. Shamblin transferred from a part-time position at Green Bank Elementary-Middle School to the full-time position at HES. Superintendent Dr. Don Bechtel and Radcliff said they would look into finding a mentor for Shamblin.
• Dr. Bechtel reported that the board received a check in the amount of $13,150.16 from Mineral’s Management Royalty.
He added that the Golden Horseshoe test is this week, middle schools students are completing the writing assessment test, and the county Social Studies Fair is Friday at Pocahontas County High School. The county will host the Regional Fair at PCHS on March 22.
In financial management, the board approved the following:
• To contract with David McClure to assist with the preparation of the budget and financial statement for Pocahontas County Schools at the rate of $40 per hour, not to exceed 40 hours to prepare budget, not to exceed 80 hours to prepare financial statement.
• To contract with Wanda Mitchem to assist with the preparation of the financial statement for Pocahontas County Schools at the rate of $25, not to exceed 8 hours.
• Payment of vendor listings of claims in the amounts of $17,487.20; $136,349.91 and $48,743.51.
• Certificate of Valuation and Assessed Values for Calculating Reduced (Rolled Back) Levy Rates.
• Order of the Pocahontas County Board of Education Directing an Election to be held to authorize additional tax levies for the fiscal years beginning July 1, 2015; July 1, 2016; July 1, 2017; July 1, 2018; and July 1, 2019.
• Proposed Levy Rates for fiscal year 2015.
• To sell seven school buses.
In miscellaneous management, the board approved the following:
• Wanda Hrabina and Stephanie Poppe to transport 12 students, by school bus, to Concord University in Athens, to participate in the Geography Bowl.
• Brian M. Smith as volunteer basketball coach for the fourth grade team at Marlinton Elementary School, effective for the 2013-2014 season.
• Lawrence Kiner, Jr., as volunteer basketball coach for the fifth grade team at Marlinton Middle School, effective for the 2013-2014 season.
• Shannon Arbogast and Jessica Hays as volunteer softball coaches at Pocahontas County High School, effective for the 2013-2014 season.
In personnel management, the board approved the following:
• Requested transfer of Dorthie I. Shamblin from half-time secretary II/accountant II at Green Bank Elementary School, to secretary II/accountant II at Hillsboro Elementary School, at state basic pay, effective March 12 for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year. Term of employment is 66 days. Term of employment shall be 215 days each year thereafter.
• Consent to change Kristi J. Smith as teacher of multi-subjects fourth grade at Marlinton Elementary School, to teacher of multi-subjects third grade at Marlinton Elementary, effective for the 2014-2015 school year.
• Employment of Allison Flegel as substitute teacher for Pocahontas County Schools, effective March 12, for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year, as needed, at state basic pay.
The board will hold a special meeting, Monday, March 17, at 7 p.m. at the board of education conference room.
The next board meeting will be Monday, March 24, at 7 p.m. at the board of education conference room.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org