As a whole, West Virginia is losing population. It is only growing in the Eastern Panhandle and along the Northern I-79 Corridor. Yet, Upshur County continues to hold its own.
Unlike other counties, Upshur is maintaining population. Unlike other counties, we have people working. And unlike other counties, our classrooms and schools are at full capacity.
Central to any thriving area is a great school system. Upshur County’s schools are doing well -especially compared to others in West Virginia. And the system does so by being very careful on where it spends money and making sure that every dollar is effective.
The business community of Buckhannon and Upshur County has been blessed over the years to have a collaborative relationship with the various institutions of the region. We work hand-in-hand with the school system to bring on new training programs to build a quality workforce. And we are able to provide feedback to our educators as to what we need to see in the coming years.
Every few years, Upshur County has the opportunity to renew our excess levy. And our levy is the lowest in the entire state. The levy pays for teachers, for classrooms, for sports and for student character building.
For twenty years, Upshur County has understood that to grow our county, and to keep companies here, we must offer good schools. To do that, the county has continuously renewed the levy every few years.
Here’s the good news. Renewing the levy will not raise tax rates. It simply keeps things the way they are.
Here’s the bad news. The current levy makes up almost 10% of the current school budget – so it must pass, or teachers and classrooms will see significant cuts.
Counties in West Virginiathat have not renewed their levies have seen an increase in drug activity and crime. Simply put, when students aren’t in school and not in school-related activities, they get into trouble.
Without good schools, families move out of the area to find better schools and population declines – leaving empty houses – which leads to further drug issues and crime.
Mark Twain once said, “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog.”
Businesses in our community know what it takes to keep a balanced budget. For years, costs have risen, but the levy has remained the same. The Board of Education, principals and teachers have done more with less. They have found new, creative ways to cut costs while applying for grants to bring to the county to offset what the county cannot afford. Not only does the school system in Upshur County run very, very lean – but it also saves the taxpayers millions of dollars by pulling in outside dollars to pay for our children’s education.
We all talk about wanting to keep our children and grandchildren here in Upshur County – or at least giving them the opportunity to stay. The only way to do that is through a quality school system. We must renew the levy.
There is an old saying that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The same is true with an educated workforce.
If Buckhannon and Upshur County are going to continue to grow, if we are going to continue to attract jobs, we must have a thriving community. And while schools are a cornerstone any thriving community – it all begins with us - with the businesses and people of a community who support education and see what a bright future can be.