by J.R. Brammer
CLARKSBURG -- Harrison County voters overwhelmingly renewed a five-year, $59.5 million excess school levy Saturday, despite a minuscule turnout at countywide polling places.
The excess levy -- approved on a special ballot costing taxpayers $70,000 -- provides $11.9 million each year for textbooks, computers, extracurricular activities and various supplies.
The levy will result in a tax increase only if property values increase, officials say. County Assessor Cheryl Romano said she doesn't expect property values to skyrocket.
Preliminary counts showed 5,543 casting favorable votes, while 2,385 opposed the measure. There are 42,470 registered voters in Harrison County.
"Anytime you get a vote total like that, it shows overwhelming support for the school system," said superintendent Carl Friebel.
Saturday's election was the ninth time that voters have approved the initiative since 1955.
Proponents said the school system needed the money to stay competitive.
"Children wouldn't have books and supplies without this," said Donald Nutter, of Lost Creek, a grandfather of three Bridgeport students. "This is very important for schools in Harrison County."
Opponents, however, criticized the need of the excess levy, saying that officials are guilty of frivolous spending and that the system already boasts a sizable budget.
"I get the idea that there's enough money in the system," said Shannon Pitts, of Nutter Fort, a minister who home-schools two children. "They're already spending enough per child. I don't think they need anymore."
Harrison County has 29 public schools with an enrollment of 12,286 students. The school system employs 808 teachers, making for a pupil/teacher ratio of 15.2 to one. The average class size is 22 students, according to the school system's Internet Web site.
Staff writer J.R. Brammer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.