EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSLibrary Says Dire Consequences Ahead If Excess Levy Vote Fails
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kera Mashek
Web Producer: Kera Mashek
Reported: Oct. 29, 2013 10:28 PM EDT
Updated: Oct. 30, 2013 10:46 AM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
We're just a week and a half away from a special election for an increase in Kanawha County's excess levy.
The tax hike would help avoid major budget shortfalls in the Kanawha County School District and public library system. School district and library leaders say the need for this tax all started earlier this year. That's when a ruling by the state's high court essentially banned Kanawha County Schools from financially supporting the libraries, which has been done for years.
For the library in particular, if the tax hike doesn't pass, there could be dire consequences.
A steady stream of early voters are making their voices heard about a proposed hike in Kanawha County's excess levy. Kanawha County Schools have warned big budget cuts if the increase doesn't pass, but the public library system says without the levy, its future would be bleak.
"We believe we'd have to close upwards of six of the nine branches, take the bookmobile off the road, and reduce hours at the remaining facilities," said Alan Engelbert, Kanawha Co. Library director.
Because of the recent court ruling, the library knew a funding shortfall was coming and already trimmed the budget by not filling more than 20 open jobs and trimming other costs. But it's nowhere close to filling the three million dollar void--or 40 percent--of the library budget the school district has been paying to keep the library afloat. If approved, the tax levy increase would cover those costs for the library, and give $24 million to the school district to avoid its budget deficit and allow for technology upgrades.
And while you might wonder just how much local libraries are needed anymore, just last year in Kanawha County more than 800,000 people visited their local library branch.
"Library branches are hubs of their community. They're hubs for internet access to be able to go online and help bridge the digital divide, and they're a crucial part of the educational infrastructure in this county. So investing in libraries and schools is an investment in our future," said Engelbert.
Those are things library patrons like Leola Hairston realize.
"Oh, it's priceless," said Hairston.
Now library and school leaders are left to hope that's enough to get the community to vote "yes" on the excess levy increase November 9th.
If the excess levy increase is approved, a person with a $100,000 home and $15,000 car would pay about an extra $125 a year, and the levy would have to be renewed by voters in five years.
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