The court ruled in favor of the school board in its decade-long funding dispute with the Kanawha County Public Library, declaring that a special act that forces the school board to use money from its budget to support the library is "unconstitutional and unenforceable."
Kanawha County Schools gives the library about 1.25 percent of its annual budget -- or $3 million, which makes up about 40 percent of the library's entire budget.
The two entities have been in and out of court disputing the matter since the school board first sued in 2003, saying the special act issued in 1957 requiring nine of the state's 55 counties to set aside money for their libraries was unfair.
In 2007, the Legislature attempted to fix the problem by adjusting the school aid formula so that tax collections in each county were considered before the state decides how much money to provide a school system, but the Kanawha board members still felt they were being treated unfairly.
The Supreme Court decision released Friday affirms Kanawha Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib Jr.'s 2011 ruling in the school board's favor.
Justices wrote that Kanawha County is treated less favorably than other counties without special acts, which creates a lack of uniformity in the state's educational financing system.
Library officials over the years have stressed the importance of library services in the role of public education.
"Obviously, if you lose 40 percent of your funding when you're running an institution that's as widespread and significant as the library, it's going to have an impact," said Mike Albert, president of the library's board of directors. "This is a major disappointment, and we're going to have to assess where we are and consider our future and where we go from here."