Story by Mike Nolting, WAJR

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Education levies and bonds in three northern West Virginia counties failed on election day. Initiatives in Upshur, Marion, Preston and Cabell counties were turned back by voters Tuesday night.

Upshur County Board of Education

Upshur County Schools have been under state control since last June after an investigation into the spending of federal coronavirus relief money. Uncertified results show 53.34 percent of voters rejected the $3.8 million levy Tuesday. This was a replacement for the excess levy renewal that failed in the November 2022 general election. Funding from that levy will expire this July.

In Marion County, a $20 million bond request for facility improvements got the support of 57.96% of voters, less than three percent away from the approval threshold of 60%. Superintendent Donna Heston said they had a potential failure baked into their plan, and they’ll continue their outreach efforts.

“When they looked at that, they wanted the goal to run it in May, so if they needed to take this opportunity to get voter feedback and reflection and run it again in November, that has been their intention,” Heston said.

Donna Heston (File)

The list of improvements in Marion County includes a mix of repairs, renovations, and new construction for academic and athletic facilities. The projects include a new elementary school in the East Fairmont area and improvements to all three high schools: Watson Elementary School and Barrackville Elementary/Middle School.

“It’s time to improve our facilities and our learning environments for our students,” Heston said. “We need to seize this opportunity and make those necessary improvements for our students; schools are the pillars of our communities.”

Voters in Preston County rejected the school levy there, 53.54% for and 46.46% against the measure that would have collected about $5 million annually. The levy replaces one that expires in July and has a slightly lower tax rate due to the increase in property value over the last five years. Putting the measure on the November ballot would be an option to be considered by the Preston County Board of Education.

Brad Martin

“It’s disappointing! It’s definitely a loss for the kids,” School Superintendent Brad Martin said. “No matter how you feel about things, this definitely would have benefited the children in this county, so it’s disappointing.”

If the board does decide to place the levy on the November ballot, public outreach will likely begin as soon as possible.

“Hopefully pounding some more of that home can turn some, but a 500-voter discrepancy is a hard thing to close the gap on,” Martin said.

Funding from the levy would be broken down into nine categories. Funds appropriated in a category may not be moved around for any other purpose. Since 2019, the district has published detailed spending reports front-facing on the district website. The information breaks down where the funding comes from and expenses. Expense detail is provided for vendors, supplies, salaries, field trips, and programs by the school.

“I continue to hear people say, I don’t know how it was spent,” Martin said. “Everything the levy committee and the school have done to put that information out, offer transparency, and allow people to understand what’s done and that it is spent exactly how it’s allocated, you really can’t get away from it.”

MetroNews previously reported on the Cabell County excess levy defeat.