Bill could cut Upshur County education funding by $1M

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Board of Education is eyeing pending legislation that would cut its state funding by nearly $1 million but increase the maximum amount of taxes paid by county residents.

Business manager George Carver said at Tuesday night’s board of education meeting that there have been various estimates of how much education funding would be cut by the state.

“The latest proposal I am aware of is a plan to cut about $75 to $80 million in the educational budget,” he said.

At the same time, Senate Bill 609 — which passed the Senate by one vote on Wednesday and is now in the House of Delegates — would raise the regular levy rate.

“The rate that has been used by all 55 counties for the regular levy rate is below what the statutory maximum is,” Carver said.

According to numbers from the state Office of School Finance, Upshur County would lose $999,997 in state aid. Kanawha County stands to lose the most at $9.3 million. Lewis County would lose just over $1 million.

But the bill’s provision automatically increases regular levy tax rates to offset those losses.

“Our state aid would go down, but the local tax increase would be a wash,” Carver said.

That means an additional $1 million would come from Upshur County property taxes.

The new rate under the bill increases Class 2 assessed value from 38.8 cents per $100 to 45.9 percent per $100 of assessed valuation.

County boards of education have been following the legislation with interest.

Carver said he is not sure what may happen but told board members to be aware that when the board reconvenes on April 18, it may be more complicated than just approving the levy rates.

“As I get information, I will keep you in the loop,” he said. “It’s an interesting turn of events.”

SB 609 will cut Pre-K through 12 public education funding by $79.3 million and automatically raise county’s regular levy property rates to make up for the loss, according to the Charleston Gazette.

It would also enable county school boards to opt out of the tax increase — if those boards are willing to take the financial loss.

The bill to reduce state aid and increase property taxes passed 17-16 with one senator absent.

All senate Democrats voted no on the bill. Local senators were split on the measure, with Robert Karnes (R-Upshur) voting against it but Greg Boso (R-Nicholas) voting in favor.

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