By Katie Kuba, Upshur Bureau Chief
BUCKHANNON - Upshur County Board of Education members and Superintendent of Schools Roy Wager breathed a collective sigh of relief Saturday night at the Upshur County Courthouse upon learning that the excess levy had passed.
With all 29 precincts reporting, the levy renewal proposal passed by 416 votes, with 1,758 votes for the levy, or 56.71 percent, and 1,342 votes against the levy, or 43.29 percent.
"I'm just relieved and excited," Upshur BOE President Teresa Bellamy said, after the final precinct was tallied and reported just before 10 p.m. "I'm so excited that we can continue to give to our kids."
The levy will raise just over $3.3 million, or $3,346,000, annually beginning July 1, 2014, and ending June 30, 2019. The current five-year levy expires on June 30, 2014.
A total of 3,100 - or 21.6 percent - of people voted in Saturday's special election, which Bellamy said prompted some healthy debates, particularly on social networking websites like Facebook.
"It's been a good exchange," she said.
"It's gotten a lot of people talking, and a lot of people educating others about the levy."
Wager - who has been campaigning for the levy's passage at board of education meetings throughout the county for months - said he, too, was "excited and exhausted."
The superintendent said he "started to get a good feeling" when he learned that more people voted for the levy than against it at several county precincts where the opposite has been the case in the past.
"There were less votes against it, even in the places where it was voted down," he said.
"The best part is that we can now move forward with all the things we want to do for the students of Upshur County."
"I just want to let all the voters of Upshur County know that we appreciate their vote of confidence in us," he added. "More people voted this year than five years ago - and there was a higher percentage (of voter turnout) at every precinct.
"That shows there's a lot of interest in what's going on in the schools."
Planning for the 2014-2015 budget will now be "much easier," Wager said.
So, how will levy funds be spent annually?
According to information provided by the board, $800,000 will be used for instructional programs, supplies and materials and equipment. About $1 million will be put toward capital improvements and preventive maintenance; $500,000 will pay the salaries of substitute teachers; $346,000 will be spent on extracurricular activities; and $200,000 will be allocated for contracted services, such as crossing guards, prevention resource officers, or PROs, at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and Buckhannon-Upshur High School, athletic trainers and technology services.
Another $50,000 will support student-related community services. These levy funds will provide for free admission to regular school extracurricular events for all students enrolled in Upshur County schools, Wager said. Any Upshur County resident age 60 or over will likewise gain free admission to all regular school extracurricular activities in the county with a specially issued pass, or ID card.
On Saturday night, Wager said the passes, or ID cards, for Upshur County students and seniors will be available at the Board of Education office as soon as administrators have the chance to design and print them.