The following article was submitted to us by a citizen of Jefferson County.

On Saturday, December 12, 2015, Jefferson County residents will have the opportunity to support Jefferson County Schools by casting their ballot in the special election for the renewal of the excess levy. This levy supplements the Jefferson County Public School System and provides approximately 22% of its funding – nearly $19 million dollars a year.  Jefferson County residents have unfailingly renewed this levy every five years since its inception in 1946 to the benefit of local students and teachers; however, this year, there’s worry the levy renewal will be defeated by voters due to complaints of over-taxation and “misuse” of the monies generated by the levy.

While the term “excess levy” sounds like a potential tax increase, a “yes” vote in support of the levy will simply keep in place the same tax already being paid by property owners in Jefferson County – 45.9 cents for every $100 of assessed value on their homes . Again, this rate has remained static for almost seventy years. Meanwhile, Jefferson County Schools have already suffered budgetary setbacks with Governor Tomblin’s announcement that county school systems would see a 1% reduction in state funding this year.  As such, the potential elimination of the excess levy would be a crushing blow to the entire county, not just the Jefferson County School System.

In addition to providing local schools with sufficient staffing and supplies, the excess levy also supports the 4-H program and three local libraries within Jefferson County: Shepherdstown Library, South Jefferson Library, and Harpers Ferry Library. Libraries are particularly essential to the community as they provide a continuum of education for people of all ages, from toddlers to seniors. Should the levy fail, the services provided by the schools and libraries will be drastically decreased to the detriment of our students and residents. Some argue it’s not their responsibility to support local schools if they are without children or if their children are grown; however, if we wish to live in an educated, engaged, and economically prosperous society, we must sustain the levy.

With levy renewals recently failing in Randolph and Morgan counties, high voter turn-out is vital to this election. Only 25% of registered voters in Morgan County turned out for the referendum last year – do not hope or believe the Jefferson County excess levy renewal will magically happen – make it happen! Giving thirty minutes of your time to cast your vote on Saturday, December 12 could make all the difference, and it would be the best Christmas gift you could give your community. The state of West Virginia has long been criticized for a perceived lack of interest in education.  We’re unfairly labeled “hillbillies” and “rednecks” and dismissed by neighboring states as being “backwards.” Voting yes for the excess levy is one small step we can take to show we truly do value our education and our future.

For more information regarding early voting and voting precincts, please visit: http://www.jeffersoncountywv.org/county-government/elected-officials/county-clerk/voter-registration-elections/special-election-excess-levy-2015

For more information regarding the excess levy and use of the funds, please visit: http://boe.jeff.k12.wv.us/levy2015

(Photo Credits: Nicholas Trietsch)

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