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Voters will decide in November whether to continue the excess levy that’s been in place for Jefferson County’s public school system since 1946.

CHARLES TOWN – The Jefferson County Board of Education on Monday approved a rough breakdown of a proposed $22.4 million in total annual extra property tax assessments for the school system that will be put before county voters to approve or reject on the November general election ballot.

The extra or “excess” levy proposal, which would authorize the additional annual real estate property tax assessments, would run for five consecutive years, starting next July, and includes $17.6 million for supplemental “stipend” pay for school administrators, as well as pay for other school personnel working mostly outside the classrooms.

How much of the administrator stipend pay the excess levy would fund was not reported in the revenue and spending breakdown. The amount for stipends was bundled into pay the excess levy would also provide for librarians, nurses, coaches, counselors, custodians and substitute teachers.

Pay for classroom teachers—excluding art and music teachers—would not be covered by the excess levy.

The Spirit of Jefferson has requested from school officials the total amount of administrator pay that the extra levy would fund. Hans Fogle, the school district’s public information officer, said he was working to obtain the information.

The revenue-spending breakdown for the proposed excess levy outline approved during a school board meeting Monday includes $1.8 million for school employee professional development; $1.5 million for technology; $1.3 million for “safety and instruction materials”; and $170,000 for public libraries, 4-H programs, after-school programs and immunizations for low-income students.

The ballot measure will ask county homeowners to continue to pay the same extra property taxes they currently pay to the school system.

If approved, the excess levy would be paid on top of an estimated $20 million share of “regular” or minimum levy of annual real estate property taxes that are collected for the school system.

As a five-year authorization, the proposed school board excess levy would ask Jefferson County homeowners to pay about $112 million or more in additional total property taxes from July 2021 through July 2025.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the spending breakdown of the excess levy proposal with little discussion. County taxpayers have approved excess levies without interruption since 1946, school officials report.

Also appearing on this November’s ballot for county voters to approve or reject is a proposed authorization of $43.5 million in 15-year public bond debt to pay for various school building improvement projects. The proposed ballot bond call would provide $32.5 million to pay for a new elementary school in Shepherdstown and in Ranson and about $11 million to pay for building renovations or improvements.

Citing a theoretical example, school officials have said paying off the proposed bond debt would cost a family owning a $250,000 home about $104 per year over the life of the bond, assuming bondholders would be paid a projected 2.2 percent interest rate of return.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County homeowners pay an overall real estate property rate of 1.138 cents for every $100 in assessed real estate value they own. That overall rate includes revenue from the regular school levy of 38.8 cents per $100 of assessed property value and the current 45.9 cent school excess levy.

The remaining share of total property taxes homeowners pay is distributed to state, county and, if a taxpayer lives in a city or town, municipal governments.

Commercial property owners, including home rental properties, pay double the regular and excess levy property tax rates that residential property owners pay.  

What property taxes county homeowners would eventually pay would depend on the assessed value of their property. The school system could collect more than the estimated $22.4 million annually from the excess levy if property values fall or if new housing construction expands the property tax base. The school system could collect less from the excess levy than it’s projecting if property values were to fall across the board.

For perspective, the school system has projected to receive $23.7 million in excess property tax revenue for its current fiscal year.

If the school system collects more than it estimates, it can keep that extra revenue, but it would have to spend 80 percent of the extra revenue on personnel salaries, according to the ballot measure the school board approved.

About 75 percent of the regular property taxes collected go to support the school system’s $107 million general operating budget. That budget for the current fiscal year that began this month includes $88 million for total wage and benefit for the school system’s 750 teachers, 530 service personnel and 23 administrator positions.

The nearly $43 million in total estimated regular and excess property tax levies the school system is estimated to collect during this budget year will cover about 40 percent of the school district’s spending. Other revenue sources for the school system’s budget include more than $60 million in state and federal funding.

Serving 8,900 students as of the last school year, the school system overall spends about $11,704 a year per pupil.

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