CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Public Library board members are preparing to lay off employees across the county after voters rejected an excess levy for the library and the county school system on Saturday.
The board agreed Tuesday to find a law firm with experience in employment practices "to carry out these reductions in an especially fair manner," said Mike Albert, the library board's president.
"Much of our budget is salary and wages. We are a service institution," Albert said. "We're not trying to hurt anybody. We simply must react."
The plan would be to lay off the fewest possible employees "in a manner that brings operations in line with the budget" over the next six months or other appropriate period, Albert said.
On Saturday, Kanawha County voters overwhelmingly rejected an excess levy that would've brought in about $3 million for libraries each year, along with more than $20 million annually for the school system. The levy would have increased property taxes for a resident with a $100,000 home and a $15,000 car by $125 a year.
The levy was an attempt to repair the library's budget, which was stripped by 40 percent after the Supreme Court ruled in February that Kanawha County Schools was no longer required by law to help fund the library.
The court decision ended a decade-long fight led by the school system to nix its mandated funding relationship with the library.
Now that the levy has failed, the library will have to make major cuts -- including potentially closing up to six of its nine branches -- while still pursuing new potentials for revenue.
Albert said Tuesday that a committee of board members will analyze potential reductions and reorganization of the library.
"We're obviously very disappointed [with the levy result]. We're going to pursue funding in every reasonable way. But we've got a fiduciary obligation just as well ... to live within the budget that we now have," Albert said.
"Many if not most of our current operations are going to be affected," he said. "We expect the public to become upset, but [we] need to live within our reduced budget. We will now begin the painful process."