School Levy Renewal with Fortified School Security Funding Placed on November 8 Ballot
The Greenbrier County Board of Education has approved a sixty percent (60%) levy call to be placed before the voters on the November 8, 2022, election ballot. The board seeks to renew the levy, which must be authorized by the voters every five years, with a ten percent increase to continue to fund vital educational services to Greenbrier County students and further fortify school safety measures. Notably, Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding (ESSERF) has allowed the school system to pilot on-campus contracted police services at all schools for the next two years. The ten-percent levy (10%) increase is necessary to sustain the enhanced security initiative.
Greenbrier County Schools will host two informational forums to inform the public about the school levy. The first forum is on Monday, September 19, at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Western Greenbrier Middle School. A second forum is on Monday, September 26, at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium at Eastern Greenbrier Middle School.
The approximate amount necessary to carry out these specific programs and services is $8,326,267 annually. Monies generated by the continuation of the levy can be used only for expenditures specified on the ballot. The specific purposes for funding set forth in the levy call are as follows:
School safety and security improvements and initiatives, including but not limited to security services, equipment, and related support services for students ($1,000,000)
Purchase of instructional materials, technology, and related resources ($1,000,000).
Continuation of art and music programs available to all students ($350,000).
School allotments and supplies, including lab supplies ($900,000).
Capital improvements to school facilities, including repair and maintenance of buildings and utilities ($2,776,267).
Provide for employment of necessary personnel outside the school aid formula to meet the needs of students and maintain employee benefits ($2,300,000).
While the proposed levy rate will increase by ten percent (10%), school officials note that citizens will not see an overall increase in the amount they pay because the school construction bond expires in 2024. Greenbrier County currently ranks 32nd among West Virginia counties in local taxpayer contribution to education. Forty-three of the other 54 county school boards in the state have voter-approved excess levies in place. With the approval of the proposed levy and payoff of bonds in 2024, Greenbrier County will fall to 36th in the state for local taxes levied for public education. Citizens in 35 other WV counties will pay a higher tax rate to support public schools.
“Since 1974, the citizens of Greenbrier County have supported our students and schools through the school excess levy, and we could not be more grateful,” stated Superintendent Jeff Bryant.
“Among many other vital services, the levy makes possible school security initiatives crucial to the safety of our students and staff. This year, we are proactively implementing an initiative to place contracted off-duty police officers in all elementary schools to bolster school security measures. These uniformed police officers will receive training on maintaining safe schools, handling student and school security threats, and facilitating drills. The officers will also have arrest powers. The officers will not be there to discipline students; their focus is to ensure a safe school environment and respond to potential threats. Considering recent school tragedies, we feel this is a necessary step. Renewing the levy also allows us to continue our Prevention Resource Officer program, providing full-time police officers in our middle and high schools. It also enables us to continue contracted school security services currently in place at all of our schools, “continued Bryant.
“Additionally, our ability to provide art and music instruction to all students sets Greenbrier County Schools apart from many other county school systems. Our partnerships with area arts organizations further enhance this effort. These programs are key to our mission and ability to provide a comprehensive Pre-K - 12 education to our students. This level of art and music in our schools would be impossible without our school levy,” concluded Bryant.
LEVY VS. BOND
Monies generated by the levy can be used ONLY for expenditures specified on the ballot. School bonds provide funding for new school construction and major facility renovations. Bond funds cannot be used for day-to-day operations. An easy way to remember the difference is:
LEVY = LEARNING
RESOURCES & SERVICES
BOND - BUILDINGS
WHERE LEARNING HAPPENS
A LEVY ELECTION IS ON THE NOVEMBER 8 BALLOT.
WHAT IS THE SCHOOL EXCESS LEVY?
Approximately 4700 students are enrolled in Greenbrier County Schools. All programs and all students are impacted by special school levy dollars.
State allocations and federal funding provide only a portion of the total dollars needed to operate public schools. Local funding through special levies makes up the shortfall. In Greenbrier County this is approximately 12% of our general current expense budget.
The Greenbrier County school excess levy has been in effect since July 1, 1974 (almost 50 years) and must be approved by the voters every five years. The current levy expires in June 2024.
The special school excess levy is a tax placed on property to directly fund education programs and services critical to the operation of Greenbrier County Schools. This levy allows the continuation of services including school safety and security services and equipment; the purchase of instructional materials and educational technology and resources; continuation of art and music programs; school allotments and supplies; employment of necessary personnel outside the school aid formula to meet the needs of students and maintain employee benefits; capital improvements including repair and maintenance of buildings and utilities; and funds to facilitate extended year and extracurricular programs. Most importantly, levy funds help our school system meet the demands of providing safe schools and preparing our children for success in life and the workplace.
In 2022, GCS will utilize Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSERF) to place police officers in all elementary schools to bolster safety and security. Continuation of this initiative is contingent upon 60% levy approval. Law enforcement presence in our middle and high schools, and school security guards are also funded through levy dollars.
IS THIS A NEW TAX?
No. Greenbrier County has supported the special school excess levy since 1974, renewing the measure every five years. The current levy expires in June 2024. The levy on the November 8 ballot will continue the expiring levy with a 10% increase in funding for the next five years. This funding impacts educational and safety programs in all fourteen schools throughout the county.
HOW DOES OUR LEVY RATE COMPARE TO OTHER WV COUNTIES?
Of the other 54 county school boards in West Virginia, 44 have voter approved excess levies in place. With the 10% increase (60% levy rate) and the bond paying off in 2024, Greenbrier County will drop from 32nd to 36th in the state for local taxpayer contribution to education. Citizens in 35 WV counties pay a higher tax rate to support public education.
IF IT DOESN'T PASS?
The Greenbrier County Board of Education would be confronted with making difficult choices regarding our county’s educational programs and services if the special levy is not approved.
These choices could involve reducing course offerings including but not limited to Art and Music, curtailing extra-curricular activities, reducing security and other services, reducing personnel, eliminating benefits necessary to attract and maintain qualified staff, and curtailing capital improvement and facility maintenance projects. Ultimately, the school board would be forced to reduce programs and services in order to offset a 12% (over $8 million) reduction in the school system’s general current expense budget.