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Schools, Libraries Ponder Funding After Levy Fails

Reported by: Send eMail Katy Brown
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Reported: Nov. 10, 2013 8:21 PM EST
Updated: Nov. 10, 2013 9:13 PM EST

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Levy Vote Aftermath
Eyewitness News Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

More than 23,000 ballots were cast in Saturday's election, and, when the votes were tallied, the levy was overwhelmingly defeated, with 76 percent saying "no" to the tax hike.

The levy would have given $24 million to Kanawha County Schools and $3 million to the libraries to avoid budget cuts.

Now that the measure's been defeated, it's back to the drawing board for both the public library system and school district to sort out how to pay their bills.

It was not a big surprise the levy effort did not succeed. After all, there was an organized effort from radio ads to street protests, encouraging people to vote “no.” But you did not see that kind of campaigning from the supporters.

And now, after a $350,000 special election, there are a lot of questions about what's next for both the district and library system.

"This is the worst drubbing of any levy i have ever seen," Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said.

School board members said because the $150 million levy failed, serious budget cuts are needed.

"There will be some cuts,” school board member Jim Crawford said. “They will not be made in the classroom, but extracurricular activities and things that don't affect the classroom is what we'll have to do to make it work."

However, the one board member who never supported the levy said that's not true.

"The losers last night spent the entire evening trying to frighten people,” Kanawha County School Board Presdent Pete Thaw said. “There's nothing to be frightened about."

So the $150 million question is: "Does Kanawha County need the money?"

"No,” Thaw said. “No, we're going to do fine, thank you."

Thaw said there is already a levy in place that will take effect on July 1 of 2014.

It is capped and is expected to raise more than $44 million during its five-year run.

And while Thaw assures the school district will survive, the Kanawha County Public Library can't say the same.

"The school board went out and sued their own library system and got the law changed,” Carper said. “So the library has lost a huge amount of their funding."

The library was set to get $3 million from the levy voted down Saturday.

That's the same amount of funding the school board gave the library until the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled they weren't allowed to do that anymore.

"They can solve their problems and it's in the checkbook," Thaw said.

So while the library sorts out its problems, Thaw says the school board will do the same, starting with learning to manage the money it already has.

"When you run out of money -if you do, and we haven't, you cut down your spending,” Thaw said. “ We've got a lot of air. Come on folks, you all know it or you wouldn't have voted the way you did. The voters in this county are very intelligent and I'm so proud of them."

The school board meets in about a week and a half, when it will begin figuring out how to solve its budget issues.

There is already talk of running some other kind of levy vote in the spring, but few details of that are being discussed.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?: Now that the excess levy measure has failed, how should the school district and libraries avoid drastic budget cutting measures? Stop by our Facebook page and join in on the conversation.



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