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Four levies up for renewal on May primary ballot

The four existing excess levies active in Monongalia County — public transit, parks/trails, volunteer fire departments and public libraries — are in the process of getting renewal language placed on the May primary ballot.
Ballot language for each has been passed to the Monongalia County Commission, which simply took receipt before passing it along to the West Virginia Auditor’s Office for review. The Commission has not taken any official action on the levies yet.
Of six levies put before voters in 2016, the four listed above received the 60% approval needed for passage. Each is a five-year levy set to expire on June 30, 2021.
Any levies passed in May will be for four years this time around.
If all four pass, it would represent a total of 4.66 cents on every $100 of assessed Class II property (residential) and
9.32 cents on every $100 of Class III and IV property (commercial) in year one.

Volunteer fire
If approved, the levy supporting the county’s 12 volunteer fire departments will increase slightly each of the last three years.
The levy rate in year one will be 0.76 cents on every $100 of assessed property value for Class II properties and 1.52 cents on Class III and IV properties.
That rate goes to 0.78 and 1.56 in year two; 0.80 and 1.60 in year three and 0.82 and 1.64 in year four.
It will raise $50,000 annually for each volunteer department and the county’s hazardous incident response team, as well as $10,000 for the brush fire team and $15,000 for the Monongalia County Volunteer Fire Company Association in year one. Those numbers increase slightly each year. For example, $50,000 becomes $51,500 in year two, and so on.
In total, over four years, it will raise approximately $2,865,324.
“It’s very, very important for the fire departments,” Volunteer Fire Association President Bob Brookover said of the levy funding. “The way things are nowadays and the cost of everything is making it extremely hard for volunteer departments to stay in existence.”

Public transit
The largest of the four levies seeking ballot access in May would renew funding for Mountain Line, generating $7,979,372 over four years.
Rates for the levy would remain unchanged at 2.2 cents per $100 on Class II property and 4.4 cents per $100 on Class III and IV.
Mountain Line Director Dave Bruffy said levy funds have been used to offset funding lost from the county due to declining coal severance dollars. Additionally, vehicle purchases and service increases have been funded.
All levy-funded buses are marked with a large green checkmark.
“We increased our service by about 30% with the levy funding in addition to preserving what we already had and were in danger of losing,” Bruffy said. “Without those levy funds, we would have never been able to increase those services or even keep the services we had.”

Like the transit levy, the levy supporting the Morgantown Public Library system will remain unchanged from its current form if passed in May.
The levy would raise about $1,958,576 over four years at a rate of
0.54 cents on $100 at Class II and 1.08 cents at Class III and IV.
“It makes up about 24% of our total budget, and that’s the total system budget, so this covers general operations for the Morgantown, the Aull Center and all the branches — Cheat Area, Clinton District, Clay-Battelle and Arnettsville,” Library Director Sarah Palfrey said. “If we lost that, there would be a significant reduction in locations, staffing and services.”

If passed, the levy supporting a number of parks, trails and recreation groups would also remain unchanged from its current version, though the way the funds are divided would be different.
The levy would generate $4,207,312 over
four years on rates of 1.16 cents on $100 of Class II and 2.32 cents on Class III and IV.
Annually, BOPARC would receive $257,572 for continued work improving and upgrading the Morgantown Ice Arena.
The three county parks would receive $275,000 annually for operations and expenses and $332,273 annually for capital improvement projects.
The operation and maintenance of the Mon River and Deckers Creek Rail-Trails would receive $95,397.
A new addition this time around would be the West Virginia Botanic Garden, which will get $38,158 each year for operations and development of a welcome center.
The Cheat Lake and Laurel Point soccer clubs will receive $38,158 annually, and Westover Park will get $15,270 for its baseball fields.
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