CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Board of Education members attempted to forecast the school system's financial future in a budget workshop Thursday, but the uncertainty of its funding relationship with the county's public library isn't making it easy.
"It's premature to talk about this if we don't have sufficient information on [the library's] action plan and what our obligations may or may not be, rather than prophesizing and predicting," board member Bill Raglin said. "Something has to be done sooner rather than later, given the circumstances. We can't take a stance until we have more information."
The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled last month that the school board no longer is required to provide about $3 million out of its budget to fund library operations. However, the board's five members agreed that they should keep funding library through July 1, the end of the fiscal year.
The court's decision leaves the library without stable funding for 40 percent of its total budget. Library officials have appealed to the school board, asking its members to voluntarily continue the funding.
The school board sued over the matter a decade ago.
While the details have not been decided, school board members already have expressed a desire to continue annually funding the library to some extent, with the exception of board President Pete Thaw, who said it's not the board's duty to continue support past this fiscal year.
"We've got to name a date when we stop this train. We're entitled to it. We have spent American money to get to do this, but then we keep holding it off," Thaw said. "I am more than willing to carry them until [July 1], but I would like to think four months is more than enough time. They've known this was coming for years."
Raglin responded: "I don't think we can do that.
"We all know that we are no longer going to be paying them directly from our budget at some point in time, but do we really want to pull the plug tomorrow and shut the libraries down?" Raglin said. "If given a scenario where they've done everything they can do and they're still short, where does this board stand? Are we going to support them or let them close?"
The school board will take the matter up again during a public meeting March 21. Superintendent Ron Duerring met with library officials earlier this week.
"Not a whole lot was accomplished, but we had an open discussion. They understand that, at some point, that support may not happen," Duerring said. "I believe they understand there's an urgency on them to get their house in order.
"They've truly expressed concerns and realize they need to find other places for revenues and somehow become more self-sufficient. We don't even know what their needs are -- there's nothing to work with.