St. C. school levy is a replacement

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – As Election Day approaches, the St. Clairsville City School District continues to promote the proposed continuous 2.75-mill operating levy. It would replace the expiring 2002 operating levy.

Superintendent Walter Skaggs stresses the district’s need for the levy and the administration’s efforts to remain fiscally sound in the face of mounting needs and government cuts.

Skaggs said the levy would impose no additional taxes. It would replace the expiring 2002 operating levy. He noted the timing of the decision to place the levy on the ballot after the repayment this year of a 2.95 bond for the construction of a connector building.

“We held off as long as we possibly could because the bond would be paid in full,” he said, adding that this would mean no increase in expenses to the taxpayer.

The 2001 bond passed by only three votes. This was after the public decisively voted down two levies in 1999 and 2000 to construct a new complex.

Administrators have pointed out water damage in the classrooms. The schools have resorted to measures such as covering computers and placing buckets out to catch rain during storms.

“The elementary roof is priority No. 1,” Skaggs said, adding that the roof is well past its 20-year projected duration. “It’s beyond its life’s expectancy, and we need to replace that.”

After the roof is repaired, focus would move to the doors and windows. The doors offer poor security and are a source of heat loss.

“Those are the big three things we need to get done.” Skaggs said. “Those are our priorities.”

He added that the staff has taken pay freezes in the past three years as well as concessions in insurance, retirement and staffing. More than 30 positions were eliminated or changed in the last five years. A total of 22 were eliminated with 13 reduced or replaced with entry level posts.

The district also has seen a $653,000 per year decrease in state collections from 2002 to 2013. Overall, Skaggs reported a $1.2 million reduction in state funding.

At the same time, the student population during past seven years has increased by 100 children. The student body is approximately 1,650. Skaggs noted the district’s administrative expenditures per pupil are the lowest in the county.

St. Clairsville has consistently met most of the indicators on the state report card. About 80 percent of graduates then go on to two- or four-year programs.

The five years of staff cuts and adjustments resulted in a cumulative savings of $2.8 million, or 21 percent of the current budget.

Skaggs said the levy would bring necessary upgrades.

“It’s by no means a cure-all,” he said.

In addition, thanks go to community organizations and volunteers for assisting in projects to upgrade the elementary playground and the middle school auditorium, completed at no cost to the taxpayers. The district security plan was funded through a Homeland Security grant.

“I ask for the support of the community and the citizens of our district. We feel we’ve been fiscally responsible, and we will continue to be fiscally responsible and spend taxpayer money wisely,” he said.

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