In Berkeley Springs, School Levy Goes Down to Defeat

The special school levy went down to defeat yesterday, with 1,672 citizens voting against (56 percent) and 1,323 voting for the levy (44 percent.)

Twenty five percent (3,008) of the eligible voters (11,955) in Morgan County, West Virginia voted in the special referendum.

It was the first time since 1958 — when the levy was first voted in — that it was defeated by the voters.

The levy was defeated by a coalition of citizens calling themselves Citizens Against Excess Levies (CAEL), led by Jeannie Ford, the wife of County Commissioner Bob Ford.

Jeannie Ford said that her core group included Frieda Ickes, Brooks McCumbee, Eric Pritchard, Terry Edmisten and Denise Edmisten.

In an interview, Jeannie Ford said she and her husband “are not on the same page on the levy.”

“As soon as I mention the levy, he leaves,” she said. “My household has been in disarray ever since this levy thing started.”

“We are not on the same page on this and we don’t agree on fracking,” Jeannie Ford said.

“I’m against fracking and will work to defeat it in Morgan County.”

“Fracking will not come to this county,” she said. “I will run a campaign against fracking. I would sell my house to raise money to stop it.”

Ford estimated that her group spent upwards of $3,000 on the campaign to defeat the levy.

She said her group had 250 regular sized signs and five large ones.

“I would say the other side outspent us ten to one,” Ford said. “They had Charles Trump, Daryl Cowles, Jeanne Mozier, Connie Perry. They had a website.”

About 40 percent of the average Morgan County resident’s property tax bill is the special levy that goes to the schools.

Ford says her property tax bill is about $6,000 a year, so about $2,400 of that goes to the special school levy.

Now that it is defeated, starting June 2014 — Ford’s $2,400 school portion will be reduced to zero.

Unless the county votes again and approves it.

The next vote will probably take place in December, Ford said.

The levy raises $5.8 million a year for the schools.

“We don’t need that $5.8 million,” Ford said.

She said that eleven other counties in West Virginia have no special levy.

“And many of them — including Pendleton, Pocahontas, Hardy, Grant and Tucker — have better WESTEST scores than we do,” she said.

She said that the superintendent of the schools, David Banks, told a group of citizens at Greenwood Elementary School at a town hall meeting that if the levy didn’t pass, Greenwood would have to be closed down.

“That’s not going to happen,” Ford said.

Voters in Precinct 24 — Greenwood Elementary School — voted to defeat the levy 247 against (66 percent) to 130 for (34 percent.)

Why would the people around Greenwood vote against the levy?

“Because they are tired of paying taxes,” Ford said. “We are in a recession. There are people with families living in cars. There are houses where kids are living with their parents. The children aren’t getting any smarter. What is our money being used for? It’s being used for the higher ups.”

Ford said she would support a levy that “people can afford.”

“I would support a levy at 24 percent,” Ford said. “I’m not going for a 100 percent levy. The Department of Education in Charleston told me their first mistake was raising the levy rate right before (two weeks ago) the election last night. You don’t raise a levy rate right before the election.”


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