Residents came out in numbers Tuesday evening to learn more about the upcoming excess levy election and to hear about the future of education in Harrison County.
More than 100 people attended the fall symposium at Robert C. Byrd High School called "Continue the Excellence." The event was sponsored by the West Virginia University Division of Extended Learning and the Harrison County Chamber of Commerce.
"The difference between a standard school system and an excellent school system in this county is the excess levy," said Dr. Carl Friebel, superintendent of schools. "We want to be sure our kids continue to have every opportunity to obtain the best education they can, and we hope they will take advantage of the opportunities we provide."
Friebel was one of three speakers during the evening. Bob Stemple, a former superintendent who now heads a citizens' committee in support of the levy, shared his views on the importance of the levy, as well as WVU President David Hardesty, who spoke on the future of higher education.
Before opening the floor to questions, Sharon Haddix, Harrison Board of Education treasurer, gave a power-point presentation on the history of the levy and explained what the levy would cover if it passes on Dec. 16.
The levy has been in effect for the last 44 years, Haddix said. The upcoming levy would not increase taxes and would remain at the current 90 percent rate. That means the levy would cost a homeowner whose house is valued at $60,000 about $247 per year, she said.
The upcoming levy would provide money for textbooks and supplies, library books and supplies, science equipment, special education, guidance and special therapy, band support, fine arts, physical education support, art instruction, vocational education, extracurricular activities, building and athletic facilities, school buses, technology, duplication and supplemental benefits to employees.
If the levy does not pass, there would be less money for such areas as technology, the arts, athletics, curriculum, field trips, salaries and benefits and school maintenance.
During the evening, Mary Lou Jones, representing the Harrison Chamber of Commerce, read a proclamation from the board of directors endorsing the passage of the excess levy.
Hardesty, a Harrison County native, talked about the state of West Virginia as it was 100 years ago and compared it to the direction of the state today. He noted that North Central West Virginia is at the heart of the growth in the state, and he stressed the need for a skilled and educated workforce.
"You will have to make your own judgment (on the excess levy), but I will tell you that the counties that invest in education will be the counties of the future, not the counties of the past," he said.
Assistant City Editor Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447 or by e-mail at email@example.com.