CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In past years, the Kanawha County Republican Party Executive Committee has shied away from taking a stand in school excess levy elections.
But the political organization decided to actively campaign against the latest proposed excess levy to support schools and libraries, after tea party member Fred Joseph was elected as the GOP executive committee's chairman four months ago.
It's the first time the county's Republican committee has formally opposed an excess levy, Joseph said Monday. The group voted unanimously to campaign against the levy, he said.
"The citizens are already overtaxed," Joseph said Monday.
On Saturday, more than 75 percent of Kanawha County voters rejected the proposed excess levy, which would have provided $24 million for schools and $3 million for libraries.
Joseph said the county's GOP committee spent more than $900 and purchased 250 "Vote No" signs, urging voters to oppose the levy. Executive committee members also held up signs at two Kanawha County locations -- along Corridor G and beside Interstate 64/77 in Charleston -- last Wednesday and Thursday.
The GOP committee passed a resolution against the levy, but decided against making it public, Joseph said.
The executive committee did not pay for newspaper and radio advertisements, he said. Nor did the group collaborate with Charleston lobbyist Nelson Robinson, who spent about $15,000 on ads to defeat the levy, Joseph said.
"We want people to know we're not against education," Joseph said. "It's the wasteful spending that we have to get under control."
Kanawha County library officials have said they may have to close six of the county's nine libraries unless the system secures $3 million in annual funding. The libraries face a 40 percent budget cut.
Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court ruled that the county school board no longer had to financially support the libraries. The levy would have restored the Kanawha library system's annual funding.
Joseph said he would support shutting down the public library system altogether. Instead, private companies could operate libraries, he said. Library patrons would pay fees to check out books and use computers, Joseph said.
Across the nation, tea party members have targeted public libraries, filing lawsuits that challenge the taxes that fund libraries.