Julia Roberts Goad
When Mingo County voters go to the poll March 23, one of the issues they will be voting on is whether to continue an excess levy that has been provided funding to Mingo Schools for almost 50 years.
The Daily News sat down with Mingo BOE Superintendent Randy Keathley to discuss the levy, and what the funds are used for.
Keathley said the Board put together a steering committee which created a plan on how best to use the funds from the levy, which would provide $8,843,894 per year for five years.
“Our steering committee was made up of teachers, service personnel, citizens, principals, Board members and people from groups that represent educational professionals, such as the American Federation of Teachers, the West Virginia Education Association the W. Va. School Service Personnel Association,” Keathley said.
Keathley said the steering committee agreed that their first priority in choosing how best to use the levy funds was to stay student-focused, Keathley said.
The largest single expenditure is $2,648,211 planned for support for professional personnel. The money is for salary supplements for personnel, directors, principals and teaching personnel, based on the academic degrees and honors they hold.
Another large amount of levy funds is support for service personnel. The steering committee decided to set aside $1,801,910 for salary supplements for school service personnel such as secretaries, teachers aides and bus drivers.
The committee tagged $1,052,579 so Mingo schools can continue to provide free textbooks and instructional equipment to students.
“All our high school students are provided with a laptop computer,” Keathley said. “That is part of this expenditure. It also provides other technical equipment for classrooms, such as smartboards and projectors, so our schools can stay current.”
Keathley said Mingo schools hope to expand the laptop program to include eighth grade students.
If passed, the levy will provide support for athletic and extracurricular activities. Money for coaches for sports that have not traditionally been in Mingo County schools, such as cross country track, tennis and swimming. It will also provide money for coaches in middle schools, Keathley said.
“If there is enough interest, we would have the money to pay for coaches for sports that have never been in middle schools, like baseball, and softball,” he said.
Keathley said sports is a way to keep students interested in school.
“We want to provide opportunities for kids to stay actively engaged,” he said.
He said the county’s two high schools, Mingo Central and Tug Valley, worked together to find a formula to divide athletic funding.
The schools agreed to a base allocation of $12,000 each, and then to split an additional $26,000, based on how many students participate in athletics.
Levy funds will be used to support technical and career programs. More than $138,000 will help expand the Pro-Start program, which prepares student for a career in culinary arts and restaurant management, the health field such as nurses and respiratory therapists, business classes and vocational agricultural careers.
Other items the steering committee allocated funds to include support for school repairs, public and school libraries, health services, band and choral activities, and security and prevention resource officers at schools.
If there funds from the levy that are not spent during the school year, such as money put aside for a sport in which students do not express an interest, that money will carry over into the next school year, Keathley explained.
Although the levy would provide a huge financial benefit to schools, it would not increase taxes, as it is simply a continuation of the levy that has been in place since 1964.