Superintendent asks for support of Hancock County Schools levy

WEIRTON — The voters of Hancock County have shown their support for local education for decades, and county school officials are hoping to see that support continue on Nov. 6.

“This community has partnered with us for many years,” Hancock County Schools Superintendent Tim Woodward said. “We want to carry that partnership on.”

As part of the general election, Hancock County Schools has placed the renewal of its excess levy, which Woodward said has been in place for almost 70 years, on the ballot. If approved, the five-year levy will begin July 1, 2019 and last through June 30, 2024.

“It’s exactly the same as it has been,” Woodward said, noting there will be no increase in rates.

According to the levy call, Class 1 properties will be at 22.95 cents per $100 of assessed value; Class 2 properties at 45.90 cents per $100; Class 3 at 91.80 cents per $100; and Class 4 at 91.80 cents per $100.

The only difference this year, the superintendent explained, is the focus for some of the funding provided through the levy. In the past, funds have gone to assist with capital improvements, including new roofs and HVAC systems in the schools. As those projects have been completed, officials have opted to reprogram some of the money received.

“This year, we’re all about safety and security and meeting those basic needs of our children,” Woodward said.

Under the levy call:

• $40,000 per year will provide instructional materials, supplies, equipment and classroom furniture;

• $100,000 annually will go toward improving access to technology through computer software, hardware, infrastructure repair, training and support;

• $775,652 each year will help maintain and improve outdoor athletic fields, grounds and indoor gymnasiums, and maintenance and improvements to other school structures in the county;

• $100,000 per year will help maintain duplicating equipment and provide supplies;

• $70,000 per year will provide professional support services to assist with child abuse and neglect cases;

• $40,000 each year will support the Hancock County WVU Extension Service

• $100,000 per year will provide legal and medical services

• $325,000 annually will be programmed to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students in Hancock County Schools;

• $275,000 per year will provide homebound, occupational therapy, physical therapy and psychological services to Hancock County Schools, contracting with other agencies for services such as technology for hearing impaired and vision impaired individuals and to provide services, programs and equipment for students within the autism spectrum;

• $800,000 to provide safety and security improvements, including prevention resource officers, contracted security, security technology, safety and security enhancements;

• $3,750,000 per year for professional service and administrative salary supplements

• $150,000 per year for extra duty wages for academic and athletic trips for parochial and county schools;

• $525,000 each year for extra curricular athletic positions, including athletic trainer, athletic sponsor for high school and middle school programs;

• $275,000 annually to provide substitutes for professional and service positions;

• $500,000 each year for dental and optical insurance for eligible professional and service employees;

• $75,000 annually to provide extra duty salary supplements for curricular and non-curricular positions, summer school counselors, Saturday school, enrichment programs, unfunded mandates and unforeseen expenses.

Woodward noted the importance of the PRO program, which has placed a law enforcement officer in each of the county’s schools.

“Very few counties in the state have that,” Woodward said.

He also emphasized the importance of assisting students emotionally, with plans to have at least one counselor per campus, and have social workers available, further bridging the gap between home and school.

Ted Arneault, a local businessman who also has spent the last several years as an assistant football coach in the county, said in his discussions with companies looking at the region, the quality of the education system is near the top of all of their lists in making a decision.

“The steps Tim is proposing puts us at the forefront,” Arneault said. “This is the biggest element to bring business to the area.”

Woodward explained Hancock County Schools have taken steps to improve its quality of education, often ranked among the top 10 counties in West Virginia, and noting Allison Elementary’s recent recognition as a National Blue Ribbon school. Those steps can be continued, he said, with continuing support of the levy.

“I honestly don’t think there’s a better way to invest in your community than education,” Woodward said. “We all benefit.”

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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