CHARLESTON, W.Va. --The Kanawha County Public Library will go to the Supreme Court this week to ask to continue receiving funds from the county's education budget, disputing a lawsuit first filed by the school board a decade ago.
Kanawha and eight other county schools systems are required by law to give a portion of their budgets to libraries each year. During the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, the Kanawha school system is set to give the library $2.9 million, or about 1.25 percent of its entire budget.
That funding stream makes up about 40 percent of the library's total budget, with the rest supported by the county commission and the city of Charleston.
In 2003, Kanawha county school board members sued over the issue, saying a 1957 special act requiring them to give dollars to the library was unfair.
A circuit judge ruled against the school board, but the Supreme Court later overturned the decision in 2006.
The Legislature then attempted to fix the problem by adjusting the school aid formula so that local property tax collections in each county are considered before the state decides how much funding is allotted to school systems.
Before, when the state was divvying out money to schools, it did not recognize the millions that Kanawha County is required to give the library, cutting Kanawha's share for classrooms.
The Legislature lowered the amount that all counties were expected to pay for education and made up the difference.
But Kanawha school officials were unsatisfied with the Legislature's solution, saying it was unfair that all counties -- not just the nine required to fund libraries -- received more funding under the new system.
In 2011, Kanawha Chief Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr. ruled in the school board's favor when it again returned to court to get the law struck down. The school board had filed suit in 2008 to return to court for the second time in five years.
Library officials will fight to appeal that decision on Wednesday.
"If you pull $3 million out of an $8 million budget, it's going to have a significant impact -- there's no way around that. Things would be pretty ugly," Alan Englebert, director of the Kanawha County Public Library, said last week.
Englebert said the loss of that funding stream would be "a massive dislocation" of library services across the state, and while he hopes the court will recognize that, the library board has prepared contingency plans just in case.
"The library is clearly a part of education, and we find it baffling that the board of education is pursuing this course that has the potential of being profoundly destructive to their own students," he said. "We find it regrettable that the board doesn't recognize the critical role the library plays in students' lives and for people throughout their lives."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.