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Kanawha school board, library promote excess levy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the Kanawha County school board joined library officials Monday to promote the upcoming excess levy that, if passed, will financially support both entities.

The formation of a new group coined the Kids Education Yes (KEY) Committee was also announced Monday. The committee includes community members and businesses that are working toward the passage of the excess levy election scheduled for Nov. 9.

"We're the first to admit that the change in times and circumstances have caused some of our basic assumptions to be in error," school board member Bill Raglin said at a press conference held outside Piedmont Elementary School on Monday. "And in order to provide what we've been providing in the past and to improve what we have, as well as support the library, we need the voters to come out and help us as we move forward with that venture."

The proposed levy is in addition to a capped levy passed last year, which goes into effect July 1, 2014. If passed, the new levy would uncap that amount, allowing Kanawha County Schools to tax its residents the full legal amount. Currently, the levy is capped at 60 percent of what the school district is legally allowed to tax residents.

For a person with a $100,000 home and $15,000 in vehicles, the tax increase would amount to about $125 annually. That's 25 percent more than they would pay to the school system otherwise.

The proposed excess levy would generate $24.4 million in its first year in fiscal year 2014-15.

If approved, the new levy would raise $3 million for the Kanawha County Public Library in its first year -- about the same amount Kanawha County Schools was required to give to libraries each year in the past before it won its lawsuit against the library in February.

The library stood to lose about 40 percent of its entire budget after the state Supreme Court ruled that the school board no longer had to financially support it.

"The people of Kanawha County did not elect this board to close the library," school board member Jim Crawford said Monday.

Mike Albert, president of the library's board of directors, said the lawsuit is behind them, and now they're working together with the Board of Education to pass the levy to avoid a major downsizing of the county's libraries.

"We're not fighting [the court's decision.] Now it's an event that's behind us," Albert said. "This vote will provide us with the funding we had before the Supreme Court made its rule. Basically, it puts us back in the same position we were in before, and it also adds a significant portion for South Charleston and Nitro libraries."

"This is a joint effort. We are going together on the election," he said. "It's a single vote. That vote will be for education."

All of the school board's members have voiced support for the excess levy except for board President Pete Thaw, who was not present at Monday's event.

Thaw has long voiced his concerns with a tax hike and is leading a campaign of his own against the proposed excess levy, saying, "The people of Kanawha County are up to their necks in taxes."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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