KINGWOOD, W.Va. — A Preston County school excess levy, built entirely through public input, failed with just more than 49 percent of the vote Tuesday.
“I’m not going to be deterred in the work that I’ve been called to do,” Superintendent of Schools Steve Wotring said. “We’re not going to be able to offer all that we had hoped for our students, and we’re going to have to make some tough decisions moving forward.”
“But I am dedicated to ensuring the best possible education for our kids. And I’ll continue to believe in their ability to achieve great success.”
The five-year, $2.42 million dollar excess levy would have provided for a broad number of areas that Wotring said needed to be addressed — overall school building maintenance, installing air conditioning in most of the schools, upgrading cameras and key-less entries for improved security, increases in technology spending, instructional supplies, field trips, after school and summer programs, alternative education, community use of facilities, and free access to all events within school buildings for students and senior citizens.
“Many of our schools have no air conditioning,” Wotring said. “When the days start getting up to 80 degrees outside or warmer, the inside of the classrooms can reach 90 degrees or above.”
Now, the Board of Education, which will bring back two incumbents re-elected Tuesday night, will need to decide what stays and what goes.
“We’re going to have to make some hard choices,” Wotring said. “We have to live within our budget. That’s just the reality of the situation.”
The technology initiative would have sped up the county’s 1-for-1 program, which intends to provide a laptop to each student in the school system. At present, only students in fifth and ninth grade have laptops. Sixth and tenth grade students will be added to that list next school year.
“I don’t think there’s any one particular part of that that people were against, because the people built that levy,” Wotring said. “We went out into the communities, and we had them build what they wanted into the levy.”
“We have the budget we have, and there won’t be an excess. So we have to make those decisions.”
What, precisely, those decisions will be is unclear. Wotring said he’s not sure exactly which “hard choices” would need to be made, but said he felt confident that the staff of Preston County’s schools could handle the defeat.
“We have a highly qualified and dedicated staff who do what they do every day because they believe in the ability of those kids,” he said. “We’ll continue to do the work that we do each and every day because we truly represent the population that believes our kids deserve it.”
This was the most recent in a series of failed excess levy votes in Preston County over the last year.
“I don’t know what the Board will decide — if they do that again or just say ‘enough is enough,'” Wotring said.
The excess levy proposed 5.71 cents per $100 assessed valuation of Class I properties; 11.42 cents per $100 valuation of Class II properties; and 22.84 cents per $100 assessed valuation of Class III and IV properties.
The primary expenditures called for $1.5 million for school building maintenance.