FAIRMONT, W.Va. (WBOY) – Early voting starts Oct. 26 and there are many items to be decided on for this General Election ballot. One of them is a levy for schools in Marion County.
“If we didn’t have the levy, I don’t think I’d ever sleep at night because you need these services and how could you pay for them if you didn’t have the levy?” Mary Jo Thomas, Marion County Schools Levy Committee member asked.
The levy money accounts for 20% of the budget for all Marion County Schools. It funds a long list of things including teacher’s stipends for classroom supplies, employee dental and optical insurance, maintenance needs and transportation fees, the $10,000 that each school gets annually to spend how the need, senior citizens free entry to school sporting events, overages and nurses and counselors.
“This money can only be used for what you say you’re going to use it for and while it’s a five-year levy it is audited every year – each item, each expenditure is audited so your money is in safe hands,” Thomas said.
The levy funds also go toward state-mandated programs which are not paid for by the state aid formula. When the schools do receive money from the state, it’s not enough. Thomas said the state aid formula is “a bit antiquated” meaning it hasn’t kept up with the cost of things they need.
The Marion County Chamber of Commerce is supporting the levy because it ties in with their efforts to improve the quality of life in the county.
“We’re always for education and we’re always supporting the board of education and our schools because they’re bringing up the next generation of leaders, and so we want our students to have the best of everything so they can step into the roles of becoming the next leaders of Marion County,” Tina Shaw, levy committee member and president of the commerce, said.
Others support it because employment is largely based on a good education.
“Everybody looks to education and how it can help our whole area from employment to just the overall improvement of just our county,” said Roch Manchin, levy committee member and owner of Fairmont-based business WCO Flooring America/Wholesale Carpet Outlet. “My kids have come up through the school system and both graduated. I’ve been around the schools we do work in and out of schools and I see how hard the teachers work.”
The question on the ballot is asking to continue at the same rate it’s already set at. The school levy in Marion County has been in effect for 75 continuous years and is the longest continuous school levy in the state of West Virginia, according to Thomas.
“We need it,” Thomas said. “In times like this and after COVID and with the impact we need these services to keep our children competitive to keep them right on target.”
“Schools don’t get enough money from the state… I certainly will always vote for the levy because it makes your community better,” Shaw said.
The levy committee members are encouraging everyone to utilize early voting to make sure their ballots are cast for this election. Early voting begins Oct. 26 and ends Nov. 5.
The current Marion County school levy stays in effect until June 2024. After that, if this one is approved, it will begin and stay in effect for five years.