Early voting ends today in Hancock County

NEW CUMBERLAND – Early voting for the Hancock County Schools’ excess levy is showing a better-than-expected turnout, county officials said.

Nearly 400 people have cast ballots in the special election since early voting began on Oct. 28 at the Hancock County Courthouse, said Jeanne Gibson, chief elections clerk for Hancock County.

“That’s a good turnout,” Gibson said. “People love early voting.”

Hancock County Clerk George Foley said he, too, was pleased with the early voting turnout. Early voting ends at 4:30 p.m. today.

The special election will be held on Saturday, and polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Unlike Ohio and Pennsylvania, West Virginia did not have any general election races on Tuesday.

The special election is being held for the renewal of an excess levy that has been on the books since about 1949. The five-year levy generates an estimated $7.1 million toward the school district’s annual budget of $43 million.

Levy revenues are used for operating expenses that are not covered by the state’s funding formula – things such as capital improvements, instructional materials, technology upgrades, autism services, homebound instruction, physical and occupational therapy, and salary supplements for teachers, service personnel and administrators.

The owner of a $75,000 home can expect to pay $206 a year on the excess levy, according to the Hancock County Assessor’s Office. Taxes are assessed on 60 percent of the home’s market value.

The tax is collected at a rate of 45.90 cents per $100 of assessed valuation of Class 2 property, and 91.80 cents per $100 of assessed valuation of Class 3 and 4 property, according to the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office.

Class 2 property is property that is occupied by the owner for residential purposes, Hancock County Assessor Joseph Alongi said. Class 3 and 4 property is all other property – cars, boats, rental property – in unincorporated and incorporated parts of the county respectively, he said.

Because the special election is being done with paper ballots, all ballots cast early will be sealed in metal containers according to precinct and then counted with the regular ballots once the polls close on Saturday, Gibson said.

So far, the levy campaign has been low-key, partly because state law restricts what school officials can do, school board President Jerry Durante said. The Hancock County Education Association helped cover the cost of printing a levy brochure.

In 2008, the last time the excess levy was on the ballot, voters approved it overwhelmingly by a 66 percent majority.

Hancock County has an estimated 23,800 registered voters and 28 precincts (polling sites) – two in the city of Chester, one for the city of New Cumberland, 13 in the city of Weirton and the remaining in the unincorporated parts of the county.

(Huba can be contacted at shuba@reviewonline.com)