DUNBAR, W.Va. -- The excess levy election slated for Nov. 9 will determine whether the Kanawha County Public Library continues to serve as the "people's university," or if it will be forced to substantially slash its operations, library board President Mike Albert said.
"Those are the only two options," he said at a Wednesday afternoon board of directors meeting. "Our effort with this levy is to be able to put our funding in place and move forward at the level that will provide us with a healthy, solid basis going forward."
Albert told the crowd gathered at the annual KCPL board meeting at the Dunbar branch library that the five-year excess levy is a tough thing to ask people for, but it's necessary to avoid a huge blow to the library's funding.
The libraries' financial woes stem from a decision made by the state Supreme Court in February, which ruled that the Kanawha County Board of Education was no longer required to fund the KCPL.
The Kanawha school board voted last week to run an excess levy Nov. 9, with about $3 million going toward the county's libraries each year if passed. That amount makes up about 40 percent of the libraries' total operating budget, and is comparable to what the school board was required by law to designate for library services in the past.
"The schools and the libraries are partners in this election," Albert said.
While the school board agreed to hold a levy on the library's behalf to help generate alternate funds, the $3 million going to the library is a small portion of the proposed excess levy, which will generate $24 million from taxpayers for school services in its first year.
Ron Duerring, the superintendent of Kanawha County Schools, said many people have asked him why the school board has proposed such a large levy -- the first in almost 20 years to take advantage of the full legal limit it can tax residents.
"I want to make it clear, it's just like the library; our resources are being cut back, and funding is starting to dry up a little bit," he said.
Duerring said the county school system has suffered several recent setbacks in its budget, including a 5.2 percent sequestration cut across all of its federal programs, as well as a $10 million loss in Medicaid funding and the elimination of federal stimulus funding.