Now that county voters have rejected the most recent proposed school levy, the Board of Education should pause to ask why two attempts in recent years have failed to raise money to improve Pocahontas County schools.
The most obvious explanation is that people don’t like paying property taxes – and don’t want to pay more than is already required to support the county school system. But, there may be other reasons the levy was defeated which have little to do with taxes. It could be most voters didn’t agree that the proposed approach was the best way to solve problems with dilapidated school buildings – or the only way, as was insisted by the Superintendent and Board of Education.
While I agree that most people don’t want to pay more property taxes, I believe a majority of citizens would vote to increase taxes temporarily for needed school improvements if they agree with the levy’s purposes.
In rejecting the levy, it could be voters were saying: We agree something should be done and that more money will be required to do it, but there must be a better way than to close Marlinton’s Elementary School and move all students to the high school for six years instead of four.
The proposed levy was designed to convince the state’s School Building Authority to grant the bulk of needed funding. But in trying to please one constituency, the SBA, the Board of Education and Superintendent ignored the need to also convince the most important constituency – county voters, the people who provide matching funds for the SBA grant.
It could be county voters want the Board of Education to try again – and develop a funding proposal that meets the needs and desires of both essential constituencies.
Something must be done but it is not clear what. County schools are in an advanced state of disrepair and must be upgraded and/or replaced – and maintained so this situation doesn’t arise again in 15-20 years.
The first step would be to determine just why voters rejected the levy and what kind of a proposal might gain future approval.