INDEPTH: Fayette County set to vote on levies to fund fire, police, and libraries

FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WOAY) – This May, Fayette County citizens will decide whether or not to reapprove property taxes that fund critical services throughout the county. As the election approaches, county leaders are speaking out, asking voters to support the levies.

There are three separate levies: one for fire, one for the sheriff’s department, and one for public libraries.

Voters can choose to vote for any of the levies that they wish to.

The levies have been in place since 1983, and the tax rates have not changed since. At the same time, they eliminated the need for county organizations to fundraise independently.

According to Fayette County Firefighters Association president Stephen Cruikshank, firefighters had to spend more time raising funds than they did training just to keep operating. With the levy, firefighters have the funds they need, allowing them to focus more time on training for all of the scenarios they respond to.

“We used to get on-the-job training, right? And, in a controlled environment, we can teach many things to operate safely… Our goal is everyone goes home,” he said. “We do so much more than fire. The tornado response last week and flooding. We spent a lot of time in the gorge doing high-angle rescue. We do swiftwater rescues, and a lot of that is not on the river. It’s during flooding events where people are trapped in their houses. And those teams are made up of dedicated people from all the different fire departments. ”


It is expensive to run a fire department. New pumper trucks cost at least $750,000, and a new ladder truck costs well over $1 million.

It costs thousands of dollars just to outfit one firefighter. The protective gear worn by firefighters is constantly wearing out, and even if it lasts, the federal government requires it to be replaced at least every ten years.

All those expenses are paid by taxes and grants. There is no charge for any service that county fire departments provide. Meanwhile, home insurance rates are largely based on the quality of surrounding fire departments. If the levy were to fail and services suffer, insurance rates could potentially increase.

It is also expensive to run a sheriff’s department, especially when the department covers a county that spans 668 square miles with large gaps between municipalities. According to the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, deputies were responsible for 95 percent of the 911 calls that occurred outside of municipal limits.

The levy pays the salary of 17 of the department’s deputies. Without that levy, those deputies may no longer be employed. As a consequence, there would be numerous gaps in coverage in the county that would need to be filled by outside agencies.

“If the levy would fail, we could lose 17 deputy sheriffs,” Sheriff Mike Fridley said. “We would not be able to do 24/7 coverage anymore. We might be able to do an evening shift. We might be able to do a midnight shift. We would have to talk to our partners, the West Virginia State Police, and they would have to cover shifts.”

Fridley said the Sheriff’s Department may not be able to provide school resource officers if the levy fails. Even though the Board of Education pays for those officers, the manpower would be needed elsewhere.

“Our function would be different because we would have to take care of the county as best we could. So really, the levy is important to us as law enforcement is being able to have that many deputies throughout the county,” Fridley said.

The law enforcement levy helps keep deputies trained. That training covers advanced topics, allowing deputies to stay qualified to cover a variety of calls that range from murder, sexual assault, child molestation, and drug cases.

That training is critically important for deputies.

“Deputies have a certain niche that they’re a part of, and they’ll remain specific to that training. So that way, it stays fluid for the department. And then we have inner departmental training. And if there’s a specific training somewhere out of state or out of the county, then we’re able to go to those,” Corporal Korey Spears said.

The public library system in Fayette County also depends on the levy to fund critical services, like notarizations, which helped 1500 people last year; WiFi, which is available to patrons even when the library is closed; online databases; and county historical resources like genealogy records and newspaper archives.

The library also works with outside agencies to help people with their taxes.

“West Virginia Legal Aid provided free tax preparation for people who make less than $57,000. We did that on Mondays. They would come in and go about 4 or 5 hours and meet with people,” Becky Kellum, director of Fayette County public libraries, said. “We provide the the room and we do the scheduling.”

The library loaned tens of thousands of books last year. It supplemented public education with programs at the physical library locations, as well as its bookmobile, which traveled to county schools.

Those services would likely go away without the support from the levy.

“If we didn’t have a levy, we wouldn’t be able to provide probably half of these services for them or to keep the buildings up that we do have,” Kellum said. We would be closing. If it doesn’t pass, that’s what would happen. We would have to start shutting things down. We can maintain for a while, but after a while it starts to eat up what money we do have saved.”

The library’s main goal is to provide as much as it can to the people of Fayette County.

“We appreciate the patrons coming in and using what we have, and we just want to encourage them to keep coming in.”


The levy rates break down for each of the four classes of property under West Virginia tax code. Class one refers to intangible personal property. Class two refers to homes and other residential property. Class three refers to any property outside of a municipality that is not taxed in class one or two. Class four refers to property inside a municipality that is not taxed in class one or two.

Here are the tax rates for each levy:


CLASS 1: 3.61 cents per hundred dollars.

CLASS 2: 7.22 cents per hundred dollars.

CLASSES 3 AND FOUR: 3.61 cents per hundred dollars.


CLASS 1: 2.43 cents per hundred dollars.

CLASS 2: 4.86 cents per hundred dollars.

CLASSES 3 AND FOUR: 9.72 cents per hundred dollars.


CLASS 1: 1.11 cents per hundred dollars.

CLASS 2: 2.22 cents per hundred dollars.

CLASSES 3 AND FOUR: 4.44 cents per hundred dollars.


CLASS 1: 7.15 cents per hundred dollars.

CLASS 2: 14.3 cents per hundred dollars.

CLASSES 3 AND FOUR: 28.6 cents per hundred dollars.


The first responders who work in these departments say that the levy keeps them trained and equipped, which, by extension, keeps them safe and helps them return to the families they sacrifice time with.

“People don’t realize we’re 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If it’s Christmas and you’re watching your little kids open packages and somebody’s house is on fire, we go,” Cruikshank said. “There are times that can’t be replaced. But it’s something we do because it’s in our heart to serve the community.”

The people who work in and sacrifice for county fire departments, sheriff’s department, and libraries are largely not allowed to endorse the levy outright.

However, one person who can is Sheriff Fridley. As an elected official, he is asking Fayette County citizens to vote “yes” on all three levies.

“Does every penny make a difference? It does. And it especially does to these three entities within the levy,” Fridley said. “If you support the men and women of the Fayette County sheriff’s office, I’m asking you to come out and support not just our levy. Support all three levies, and let’s keep going and getting better within Fayette County.”

Election day is set for May 14.

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