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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Too Many "Don't Knows" to Say "Yes" to a Levy

Commentator Editor:  Too Many "Don't knows" for us to say yes to a  levy!

As reported in the Pocahontas Times

From the Superintendent

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To the Citizens of Pocahontas County:

I believe it is important to update our citizens concerning the progress and status of the proposed excess levy that would address many of our facility needs for schools in Pocahontas County.

I think that it is important to first explain how we have gotten to the point of needing an excess levy.

First of all, the “forestry” money that we have received from the federal government for several years has dropped significantly.

 This money is used for many purposes including paying for service positions ­– cooks, custodians, aides, bus drivers, and secretaries – which the state does not entirely provide funding for. We currently have to pay for 11 services positions including benefits out of county funds.
 Therefore, a cut in forestry money means less of our local money is left over after salaries are paid. We are unable to reduce these positions because of the number of students that need physical assistance, the geographical size of our county for transportation purposes, etc.

Next, our buildings are getting older and are in dire need of repair. 

Furnaces, roofs, sprinkler systems, septic systems, water heaters, etc. are falling into disrepair and must be replaced. It has been asked why the county waited so long to address the facility needs. 
I cannot give you an answer on that

I do not know how the finances for maintenance were handled prior to this year. I would suggest that decisions were made to spend money on things that, at the time, were more pressing. 

For example, you don’t repair a roof that is not leaking. You wait until a problem arises and then deal with it. We are making repairs as needed, but now the repairs are becoming more expensive because we are dealing with furnace issues, sewer systems, roofs, etc.

Finally, we do not receive enough state funds to cover all of the costs for substitute teachers and service employee substitutes. 
Commentator Note:  Because the system is applying too many stipends for too many people, to do so many jobs, so that they can keep a high salary.  (Remember:  9 board people holding down 47  jobs all with additional pay)  Teacher's are paid basic minimum salaries.  Some have been allowed to get paid for "selling their C&P, effectively increased their salary by 25%)  A board person can get extra money for two, three or four extra jobs, despite the fact that one job is "full" time.
Those costs also have to come from local funds. These are just some of the issues that we deal with when trying to keep our buildings operating safely for our students.

For the last few years, it has been apparent that we needed to get extra funds from some source in order to keep everything afloat.

 (Commentator Note: This is code for "we need extra funds so that we can keep paying board persons extra pay.) 

An excess levy was proposed a couple of years ago and failed. Many people felt that levy failed because it was hard to understand what the money would be used for. That levy was to help athletic teams, make maintenance repairs, assist the senior citizens, help the libraries, as well as other things.

It was said several times that if the levy had been for our BUILDINGS, it would have passed.
Commentator Note:  Well, why wasn't it?  Were the buildings not suffering years ago.
When we decided to try and pass a levy this November, it was determined that 100 percent of the money would go to BUILDINGS and their renovations. That is what this levy will do.
I would like to explain how this process works and where we are in relation to the levy itself.

Back in November 2015, Board of Education president Emery Grimes and I addressed the School Building Authority asking for financial assistance in renovating Green Bank Elementary School and moving Marlinton Elementary School to the current location of Marlinton Middle School.

 The purpose of the move was to get the students of Marlinton Elementary out of the flood plain. Also, our plan is to move our seventh and eighth grade students from Green Bank and Marlinton Middle School to Pocahontas County High School.

Commentator Note:  Marlinton Elementary was built  in a flood plain.  No one living here at the time thought that the "new" building then was "not" in the floodplain.  SO WHY WAS MES BUILT IN A FLOODPLAIN.  So why was a cafe "added" to that same building that was in the floodplain.  Then the final act of building a wellness center IN THE FLOODPLAIN.  So what is the big deal about the "floodplain."
Who in his/her right mind is surprised that MES is in a floodplain.

The project for those two schools would cost approximately $18 million. 

Commentator note:  Does this $18 million include the cost of a new high school which has been suggested in the media?  Are the current board members crazy or just plain stupid!  Shouldn't they have hired a superintendent who knew ahead of time that the building within a few feet of the board building was IN THE FLOODPLAIN.  YOU CAN'T GET INTO THE BOARD OFFICE WITHOUT PASSING BY A BUILDING (MES) WHICH IS IN THE FLOODPLAIN.  

The School Building Authority was established approximately 30 years ago by the legislature to assist counties in repairing or replacing school buildings. The key word here is assist. The SBA asked us how much money we had currently available for our share of this project cost. I said we had no money available as our local share for this project.

Please understand that there are 55 counties competing for approximately $50 million in funds the SBA has available each year. All other counties that presented projects, and that were awarded money, had local money to put toward their particular project as a matching share.

I was asked how we planned to come up with a share of the project costs. I explained that our plan was to try and get an excess levy passed that would generate money that we could use to pay our local share.

The SBA asked if I thought there was any chance that the levy would be successful and I told them I thought if we were very open and honest with the citizens of Pocahontas County about the needs of our buildings, we could pass the levy.
In early December, I went back to the SBA for “funding day.”
This is the day that all SBA board members nominate a project for consideration. One member of the board was Tom Lang. He nominated a “rural school package.” This was a package for funding seven-to-eight counties that had needs and would not get funded on their own. We were one of the counties in that package.
In my opinion, if we were not in that group of rural counties, we would not have had a chance to receive the funding that we received since we had zero money as a local share of the project costs.
So here we are.
We are trying very hard to convince the citizens of Pocahontas County that this levy is extremely important.
If we pass this levy, the SBA will give us approximately $11.5 million – that we do not have to pay back – toward renovation of Marlinton Middle School and Green Bank.

Our levy would generate the necessary funds for our local share to fund the project. The levy would also generate enough money that we could request additional funding from the SBA to renovate, not move, Pocahontas County High School.

If the SBA would not approve our request for funding for the high school, we would save that money for renovation to the high school – and for no other purpose.
We recently hired an architectural firm to design our buildings. When those designs are completed, we will present them to the public in various public meetings. At that time, we will answer as many questions as possible about the buildings themselves and how our students will be served. We plan to have community meetings late this summer to answer all of the questions people may have.
We have formed a committee of local citizens and educators who will assist in developing those plans.
We are excited to move this process along and my intention is to keep the citizens informed of our plans and progress.
We have already received notice that Cara Rose, Randy Sharp, Karen O’Neil, Jennifer or Brad Dunz, Bob Sheets, Stephanie Burns, Joanna Burt-Kinderman, Joe Walker, Sherry Radcliff, Ron Hall, and I will be among the committee members.
We are adding a few more members, and I will inform you of those names as they commit to serving on the committee.
We held our first meeting May 31.
Please contact any of those committee members with questions or concerns.
The one thing that I want to ask of all of you is to keep an open mind.
Don’t close your mind to passing this levy until you see the plans and have your questions answered.
Questions about increase in your taxes, design of the buildings, timelines for making this move, etc.
The reason we chose to run this levy on the November ballot rather than in May was to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to learn everything possible about this project.
We did not want to be accused of trying to do something devious by rushing the process through. You deserve the opportunity to learn all of the facts before making up your mind.
I hope that you give us a chance to prove to you that this levy is very necessary.

Terrence Beam,


  1. I was told by a teacher that if the Middle Schoolers are moved up to the high school, Mrs. Bland said it would increase the number at the school making us a AAA or AA school (whichever) which would put us in a different bracket or group for sports. In reality, if the middle schoolers are moved to the high school, it will make a Junior High school and I do not believe it would help the high school ranking. The other issue is having the middle schoolers that close to the high schoolers for lots of reasons. Years ago, Green Bank Middle school was moved to the high school because the old school had been condemed and as a absolute necessity the students were moved down by the high school but they had separate lunches, separate locker areas, and were kept from the high schoolers. This was the set up until the Green Bank school was finished. The high school needs some updating but it does not need replaced like I have heard is the goal. My dad always said if it is NOT broke then don't try to fix it. We do not need to compete with the fancy schools.

  2. Here is the WVSSAC's population guidelines for A, AA, and AAA schools. Adding the middle school students WILL NOT even come close to moving up a classification. Pretty sure Mrs. Bland knows this and can assure your readers that she did not make that type of statement.

  3. what home owner waits until their roof leaks to put a new roof on the house .... if that mr.beam does not know that he really should not be in that job ... the argument sounds like well we didn`t keep the high school in repair we didn`t care enough about what we are entrusted to do so let us build a new school so that we can let that building fall apart as well ....oh yeah and just because we built a school in a flood plain { 11 feet of water }with out taking that into consideration the tax payers should pass a levy so we can keep on making more bone headed decisions simply because we are smarter than the people that have to pay for it

  4. I am still waiting for the Pocahontas times to give opposing views to the levy much like I am waiting to read about the law suit recently filed against the commissioners, sean dunbrack, and deputy sam hummel for sexual assault by hummel of an employee of the 911 center would think that it would be news that the tax payers of the county would like to know since we will be the ones paying for the trial and the eventual pay we are still paying out for inmate totten... after all an attorney does not take a case like this unless they know that they will win and there will be a pay out for the victim ....

  5. It's getting too expensive to own property in Pocahontas County! Property taxes plus the green box fee (now over $100) and they're talking about a county-wide fire fee! A competent school administration could solve these problems without a levy. How about cutting costs and selling the UNUSED, UNTAXED, WASTED real estate that you own in Green Bank to raise some funds? The problem is the overpaid, incompetent school administration and the unqualified school board leadership. NO NEW LEVY!

  6. its not right for the working people to pay for this levy while the lazy get another free ride they have taken prayer the lord and our bible out of the schools but keep putting there hand out for more from us i say no more not until we the tax payer get what we want in the schools its give and take not take take and more take


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