CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper says he voted for the county's excess levy for schools and libraries, which failed resoundingly over the weekend -- but he's not willing to give the library another chance alongside the county's public safety levy next spring.
"The idea of including that in the public safety levy, that's a no -- not with my vote. A back-to-back levy election with the same issue puts a sour taste in my mouth," Carper said Monday. "The voters made their message clear, and to just turn around and try it again, that bothers me."
Only 17 percent of registered Kanawha County voters took part in the special election. Of those, 76 percent said no to an increase in property tax that would've brought in $24.4 million for schools and $3 million for libraries this year.
The county's library system lost 40 percent of its total operating budget when the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the county school system no longer had to financially support it. Library officials wanted the excess levy to essentially replace that funding.
But because the Kanawha County Public Library system is not a levying body, library officials needed another agency -- the County Commission, the county school board or the city of Charleston -- to sponsor it.
The school board agreed to host a levy on the library's behalf, but added more than $20 million to the levy to bring in more money for the school system. That levy failed Saturday.
On Monday, Carper said he's hearing that library supporters will try to seize another opportunity to pass a levy during next May's primary election. Also on that ballot will be the county's public safety levy, which has been in place for more than 30 years and helps fund the county's Emergency Ambulance Authority, local fire and police departments and the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority.
Carper said he might support a county levy on the library's behalf in the future, but not on the same ballot as the public safety levy, and "not on the heels of Saturday's election."
"Most people thought it might pass, and that's why they didn't vote. Then other people were hoping it'd get beat even worse than it did. Now folks are concerned that they're going to try to run another levy and are asking if we're going to let them do that. Absolutely not," Carper said. "Now what [the library] might ask is for us to put it up on the same election cycle on a separate levy. I'm very cool to that."