CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Public Library officials are dealing with the latest consequence of a Supreme Court decision in February that relieved the school system from financially supporting the county's libraries.
The West Virginia Library Commission will not reward Kanawha County libraries with more than $25,000 in grant funding for the upcoming fiscal year because the commission considered the libraries' 2013 operating expenditures sub par.
The "maintenance of effort" requirement mandated by the state Library Commission penalizes library systems if local operating expenditures are less than the average of the total expenditures of the past three years.
Kanawha County's penalty for non-compliance means grant funding will be reduced by $25,398.
In 2013, the library's local expenditures were about $173,000 less than the three-year average. Local operating expenditures are calculated by subtracting state funds from the total operating expenditures reported.
But library board President Mike Albert said there was no choice but to "sharply reduce" expenditures after the court ruled in favor of the Kanawha County Board of Education in February, declaring that a special act that had long mandated the school board to use money from its budget to support the library was "unconstitutional and unenforceable."
The decision meant a loss of about 40 percent of the library's entire budget, but an excess levy election that would also benefit the school system will be held Nov. 9. It will attempt to help fund the library because the school board is no longer mandated by law to do so.
Early voting for the excess levy begins Oct. 26.
Albert has requested a waiver from the state Library Commission regarding the grant requirements, citing the court decision as "exceptional circumstances."
"What happened obviously is that we lost a portion of our funding and because of the uncertainty of the other portion, we properly exercised our due diligence by cranking down, if you will, our expenditures. And as a result, we in fact did not reach the average of the past three years simply because the money was not there," Albert said Monday.
Following the court decision, the library made a range of cost-cutting measures, including limiting operating hours and leaving vacant any staff positions that come open.
"All KCPL expenditures were reduced to their lowest possible level until the Board of Education clarified its intentions toward the KCPL," Albert wrote in the waiver request to West Virginia Library Commission Director Karen Goff. "This is a time of great uncertainty at KCPL and, as the Commission acknowledges, we have responded by being conservative regarding expenditures.
"We are doing our best to secure passage of the excess levy," Albert wrote. "The election will determine the future of KCPL, including its ability to comply with Maintenance of Effort."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.
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Headline: Library grant funding hit by court decision
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