Proposed Preston school levy would help fund personnel

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — The levy Preston voters will decide Feb. 2 includes a feature not seen in other recent levies: Funding for personnel.

It’s a way to help keep some of the classroom teaching positions no longer funded by the state and to add such positions as a full-time school resource officer at Preston High School (PHS) and additional service personnel.

For example, Superintendent Steve Wotring said Monday, a decline in student enrollment this school year over will translate to the loss of state funding for 4.45 professional positions and 5.432 service positions in 2019-‘20.

“Every place we go, the one thing that people tell me they will never support is personnel,” Wotring said. But with declining enrollment,  funding  classroom teachers through a levy is, “the only thing that’s going to help us,” he said.

Nineteen teaching positions have been cut from Preston High in the last few years, for example. Preston County tries not to hire more personnel than are paid by the state, because they would have to be paid with local funds.

“We’ve got to get back to where we can restore these programs to our high school, because every child is going to end up in the high school eventually. It’s only going to benefit them,” Wotring said.

The money could also be used to offset some of the classes in the county with a large pupil to teacher ratio. About 10 to 10.5 teaching positions could be added with the amount in the levy, he said.

The levy also includes money for operational expenses. This will help with utilities and service contracts, as well as additional full-time service personnel, such as custodians by covering salaries and benefits.

“Some people get turned off by the word ‘benefits’ because it sounds like we’re just giving extra stuff. Those are things that we’re required,” to give, Wotring said. “When we hire someone full time, there are benefits that go along with that.”

As for the resource officer at PHS, the superintendent said, “When you have 1,200-plus kids in a school every day, a lot can happen, and we feel we need an officer at that school every day.”

Levy details

The proposed levy is for five years, collecting $4.5 million per year. In order to pass, it must get at least 50 percent of the votes cast, plus one.

The levy is broken down into nine categories for annual expenditures:

General maintenance, improvements and equipment, $2 million, including, but not limited to, bathroom partitions, floor tile replacement, door and window repairs and replacements, inside/outside light upgrades, fire equipment upgrades, bleacher repairs and replacements, building and grounds maintenance and repairs, roof repairs and replacements, ceiling tile replacement, HVAC upgrades and replacements, boiler upgrades and replacements, other upgrades and emergency repairs, purchase of vertical man lift, county vehicle repairs and replacement, equipment repairs and replacements, and other related expenses.

Operational expenses, $700,000,  Including, but not limited to, utility expenses, HVAC contracts, filter service contracts, water treatment contracts, other service contracts, custodial equipment and supplies, additional full-time service personnel positions with benefits, extra-duty summer maintenance contracts, and other related expenses.

Safety and security, $250,000, including, but not limited to, security cameras, keyless door entry, door core replacements, outside lighting installation, phones and intercom upgrades, alternative communication devices, parking lot gates with security, hardware, software,  supplies,  full-time resource officer with benefits and other related expenses.

Classroom teachers, $650,000, iIncluding, but not limited to, additional full-time classroom teachers with benefits, classroom teacher travel expenses and other related expenses.

Technology expenses, $200,000, including, but not limited to, bandwidth upgrades, computer purchases, repair, upgrades, software, contracting, technology related professional development, additional full-time computer technicians with benefits and other related expenses.

Curricular, extra- and co-curricular activities, $150,000, including, but not limited to, field trips, school competitions, extra- and co-curricular transportation and expenses, coaching salaries and other related expenses. Funds will partly be allocated on a per-pupil basis.

Instructional supplies and materials, $200,000, including, but not limited to, instructional materials, duplicating paper, computer paper, writing paper, notebook paper, instructional supplies and equipment, copy machines and supplies, office operating expenses and other related expenses. Funds will be allocated on a per-pupil basis.

After school and virtual school programs, $300,000, including, but not limited to, salaries and benefits, instructional supplies and equipment, transportation, and other related expenses associated with before and after school programming, summer programming, mobile learning classrooms, virtual coursework and credit recovery.

Community facility use, $50,000, including, but not limited to, utility expenses, custodial supplies, custodial fees, food service personnel fees, supervisory fees, and any other expenses related to the community use of the board of education-owned property.

Voting deadlines

County Clerk Linda Huggins said Tuesday that the deadline to register to be eligible to vote in the levy election will be Jan. 14. Absentee ballots can be requested beginning Dec. 18. Early voting will take place Jan. 18-19, 22-26, and 28-30.

Story by Kathy Plum