WELLSBURG - Voters in the May 13 primary election will decide the fate of two Brooke County excess levies supporting local fire departments, several Brooke County departments and agencies and improvements to the Brooke County Courthouse.
Polling sites, which will be the same as those used in the county's regular elections, will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Registered voters also may vote in advance at the Brooke County Courthouse from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Saturdays.
The levies must be supported by at least 60 percent of voters to be adopted.
If approved, the Brooke County fire levy will raise $371,382 per year for five years, with the amount to be divided evenly among 11 local fire departments for operations, maintenance, equipment, supplies and liability and other insurance.
Set to receive $33,762 each per year, and $168,810 over the five years, are the Beech Bottom, Bethany, Bethany Pike, Colliers, Follansbee, Franklin Community, Hooverson Heights, McKinleyville, Weirton, Wellsburg and Windsor Heights fire departments.
If approved, the Brooke County ambulance excess levy will raise $799,284, to be divided among the following agencies in the following amounts: Brooke County Ambulance Service, $201,584; Brooke County Health Department, $143,887; Brooke County Public Library and its Follansbee branch, $141,124; Mary H. Weir Public Library, $24,073; Brooke County Parks and Recreation Commission, which oversees Brooke Hills Park, $84,532; West Virginia University Extension Service, $55,250; Brooke County Senior Programs, $40,016; Healthways, including the Brooke County Opportunity Center and mental hygiene proceeding costs, $38,438; and the Brooke County Museum, $10,000.
The amount also includes $55,250 for maintenance, repair and improvements to the county courthouse. The item was added to the levy when it came up for renewal in 2009.
The amounts raised by the two levies is higher, reflecting increased property values, but the levy rates, or percentage of property tax owed, hasn't changed.
If the fire levy is passed, Brooke County property owners will pay the following amounts per $100 of the assessed value of property in the following categories: Class I, 1.38 cents; Class II, 2.76 cents; and Classes III and IV, 5.52 cents.
If the ambulance excess levy is passed, Brooke County property owners will pay the following amounts per $100 of the assessed value of property in the following categories: Class I, 2.97 cents; Class II, 5.94 cents; and Classes III and IV, 11.88 cents.
Leaders of local fire departments and county officials said the two levies are a vital source of funding, allowing them to provide such services as emergency services, transportation for veterans and seniors, delivery of hot meals to elderly shut-ins, health inspections at local restaurants and free access to computers, books and movies at local libraries.
Mary Kay Wallace, director of the Brooke County Public Library and its Follansbee branch, said levy funds account for half of the library's operating budget and are used to pay for books, video and audio materials; staff, utilities for the buildings, including Internet access; and a variety of informational programs for children and adults.
She said in recent years the library has played an important role in the economy by providing job-seekers with Internet access for job searches and assistance in completing online applications and preparing resumes.
Wallace said while she hopes everyone appreciates the library's World War II prisoner of war exhibit, it should be made clear the ongoing display isn't funded by the levy.
"It's a special collection with its own budget from private donations," she said.
Joy Crawford, executive director of the Brooke County Senior Center, said the levy "is essential to us. We couldn't operate without it."
Crawford said the levy is key to providing local seniors transportation to the hospital or doctors' visits, with many traveling for kidney dialysis; nearly 60,000 meals served at several nutrition sites and delivered to the homes of many shut-ins; and in-home care for many seniors.
"We need it (the levy) and the community needs it," she said.
Voters with questions about property tax should call the county assessor's office at (304) 737-3667. Questions about the election may be answered by the county clerk's office at (304) 737-3661.
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