MERCER COUNTY, W.Va. (WVVA) Mercer County Commissioners asked Superintendent Dr. Deborah Akers to explain why a levy increased by $6 million over a 5-year span, during their regular commissioners’ meeting on September 10.
The meeting left some residents confused as to how rollover funds are addressed and if surplus funds from the levy could ever be put back into the county.
“That money would not go to the county commission in any way,” said Commissioner Bill Archer. “That money would be dispersed back to the people of Mercer County. We really need to have better communication between the school board and the commission to see where the increases have been registered.”
As far as the tax rates for residents, Dr. Akers says those won’t change.
“The taxes would stay the same,” said Akers. “The [changes] are for new businesses added to the equation,” said Akers.
Nicole McCormick is President of the Mercer County Education Association and says the excess school levy is a critical part for the continued success of the schools.
“It provides for textbooks and our school resource officers,” said McCormick. “We can no longer hire them if we don’t have the levy money.”
McCormick says if the levy doesn’t pass, those affected the most will be the students.
“It would be very devastating to the children,” said McCormick. “We’re talking about a massive loss in service employee positions.”
“We support students, teachers and the school system,” said Archer. ” We have to watch every penny that’s coming into the county.”
September 10, 2019
MERCER COUNTY, W.Va. (WVVA) Mercer County residents will vote during a special election on November 2, on whether to continue a 5-year excess school levy.
The Mercer County Commissioners want specifics as to why the levy increased by $6 million during this voting cycle, requesting Superintendent Dr. Deborah Akers to explain the increase during the Tuesday meeting.
The commissioners told Akers they support the school system, however, they want understanding as to why the levy is increasing when the population in the county is decreasing, and if there is a surplus of funds, why not put those funds back into the county.
“It’s a commissioners’ job to be good stewards of the county money,” said Commissioner Gene Buckner. “It’s not our money or the school boards money, it’s the people’s money.”
The levy increased from $58 million in 2014 to now $64 million in 2019, with nearly $3 million going towards upgrading and improving the instructional program of the school district and $1,400,000 towards employment for additional service personnel.
“It’s not an increase to taxes,” said Akers.”The taxes stay the same but for new businesses, the increase for that business is added to the formula.”
Commissioner Greg Puckett asked Akers if there would be a way to allow a percentage of the surplus funds from the levy to be given back to the county.
“To clarify, I’m not against the levy. I will vote for the levy. My concern is the amount of growth of the levy request based on the declining population of our county and the amount of services that are to be provided. I would love to see more after school programs in all areas of the county with an emphasis on our most rural areas. Consolidation over the years has impacted our families and social disconnect in these communities. We must get that back.” Commissioner Greg Puckett.
Akers stated, she needed to consult with an attorney before confirming if the levy funds are able to be distributed outside of what the documents state.
Commissioner Bill Archer says the county could have projected and possibly helped to budget the levy, had there been more effective communication between Mercer County Schools and the county.
“I’m not asking people to vote ‘no’ on this levy because we still need to put forth an effort to help our children,” said Buckner. “I think it’s fair the people of the county know where their money is going.”
“Certainly, we would be happy to have those discussions anytime they want to meet and talk,” said Akers.
The special vote will take place on Saturday, November 2.
Visit the Mercer County Commissioners website to read the levy in full detail.