UPDATE: Library Facing Cuts after Election Results

By: Rahel Solomon, Anna Baxter, Shannon Houser, Jennifer Rizzi, Michael Clouse Email
By: Rahel Solomon, Anna Baxter, Shannon Houser, Jennifer Rizzi, Michael Clouse Email
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UPDATE 11/12/13 @ 11 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- For the first time since the results of Saturday’s levy election, board members from Kanawha County Public Library met Tuesday.

On Saturday, voters decided against an excess levy that would have granted the library $3 million per year -- that makes up 40 percent of the library system’s budget.

Library user’s say the impact will be devastating.

“There are school children here everyday doing their homework,” said Charli Fulton. Fulton tells WSAZ.com she visits the library weekly.

The library’s board president Michael Albert says the defeat will likely result in staff layoffs, reducing library hours, cutting programs and even shutting down some branches.

“We serve people who are looking for jobs, we serve people who are trying to fill out forms for state assistance and any number of things,” Albert said. “And our computers are a lifeline for many people.”

And the numbers prove that more people in Kanawha County are using the library more than ever. At 54 percent of Kanawha County has a library card. Last year, the library hosted more than 3,800 events -- more than five times the amount five years ago.

“I’d love to see them expand, but where are they going to get money,” library user Peter Del Bene said. Bene said he uses the Kanawha County library once every month.

Fulton says for her it was lack of money that turned her into a library user.

“I had a low salary and I was spending 240 per month on books,” Fulton said. “So I resolved that I would use the library from then on and my savings from my budget enabled me to buy a house”

Albert says the library is funded until July 2014, but said they will begin exploring cost-saving measures immediately.

UPDATE 11/12/13 @ 11:50 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Voters in Kanawha County overwhelmingly voted down an excess levy that would have provided additional funding for the county's school system and to maintain the library system.

The county's library system is facing a budget cuts after the Supreme Court ruled the Kanawha County school system no longer had to provide funding for it.

Officials say while they are not having financial issues yet, the libraries will definitely need help in the future. The library board will meet Tuesday night to discuss its future and what possibilities it has to generate more funding.

UPDATE 11/10/13 @ 11:39 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Following Saturday night's historic election, the Kanawha County school board will be faced with some tough choices in cutting programs and spending the money they do have more wisely.

One by one the votes were cast, and one by one the ballots were counted. In the end, however, that one by one turned into three to one, in favor of not passing the levy.

"How clear do you want it? There's never been one this big," school board member Pete Thaw said.

Thaw stood alone as the only board member against the new tax.

"When you run of money, you quit spending," Thaw said. "When we run out of money, we go for a levy. Come on, that's not right."

Though the polls are closed, the schools will open again this week, with big decisions to be made. Decisions that some school members say will likely come with decreases.

"Things like Fit-Block, which is an after school program, a summer school program, extra curriculars more of a pay-as-you-go type of scenario for students," board member Robin Rector said.

Rector was a proponent of the levy.

Rector says those cuts need to be made sooner rather than later.

"You start making those cuts now because any savings we might be able to have in this years budget might help us maintain some of those things for the next year's budget," Rector said.

Both Thaw and Rector admit some funds will still be coming in the next year. The levy passed in 2012 will come due in July of 2014, though it only fulfills 65% of the school's current operating costs. It's leaving many to wonder why over $300,000 was spend on a special election that turned up no levy.

"That's hard, and you know, you take a risk anytime you get into these types of situations. Some people are probably going to say it was a bad risk," Rector said. "But I think the idea was to get this idea out among the community."

The next board meeting is November 21st. Rector says at that meeting, the board will likely challenge administration to come up with a list of cuts as soon as possible.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 11/9/13 @ 11:24 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- All of the ballots have been counted for the Kanawha County School Board and Library Levy.

Election officials say 5,501 people voted for the levy. That's just 23.82%.

Meanwhile, 17,590 people voted against it. That's 76.18%.

Results will not be official until after the Canvass on November 15.

Perhaps most surprising figure of the night was the the voter turnout. Earlier Saturday, Kanawha County Clerk Vera MacCormick predicted roughly a 9% turnout. After all the ballots were tallied, the total percent was over 17%.

Many high-ranking election officials say this was the largest school levy defeat they can remember.

UPDATE 11/9/13 @ 9:25 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The ballots are being counted and results are making their way in for the Special School Board and Library Levy.

Totals for early voting as well as 78 of the 165 precincts are in.

At this time, 29.12% have voted for the levy, while 70.88% are against it.

We will keep you updated as more results make their way in.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 11/6/13 @ 10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- When you come to the polls Saturday to vote on the Kanawha County Excess Levy, you'll be given a two-sided ballot that explains what the levy means.

Here's how it works: for every $100,000 your home is worth, you would see a tax increase of about $125. For example, a home worth $50,000 would pay about half of that.

A 'yes' vote means public libraries will get more than $3 million worth of funding for the next six years.

Then, there's the extracurricular activities. Right now, parents don't have to foot the bill for their kids to participate. If the levy passes, that would still be the case. However, supporters say if the levy doesn't pass, parents will have to pay for students to play sports or participate in art programs.

The bottom line adds up to a little more than $1 million each year. School officials say that money goes to supplies and coaches' pay.

Technology upgrades are also in question. All schools would benefit, but not all at once.

Next year, 13 middle schools and seven elementary schools would get a technology boost if the levy passes. They are:

Andrew Jackson Middle School
Cedar Grove Middle School
Dunbar Middle School
DuPont Middle School
East Bank Middle School
Elkview Middle School
Hayes Middle School
Horace Mann Middle School
John Adams Middle School
McKinley Middle School
Sissonville Middle School
South Charleston Middle School
Stonewall Jackson Middle School

Ruffner Elementary School
Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School
Grandview Elementary School
Piedmont Elementary School
Shoals Elementary School
Cedar Grove Elementary School

School district officials say they're the ones in most need of the upgrade. As more money comes in each year, more schools would upgrade until all are covered in 2019.

The bottom line adds up to more than $10 million.

Early voting on the levy ended Wednesday. The polls will be open for regular voting from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

UPDATE 10/30/13 @ 8:10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Early voting is well underway in the Kanawha County Excess Levy, with more than 1,250 people having voted as of Wednesday, according to information from the County Clerk's Office.

Early voting began Saturday, as residents decide whether or not to support a levy designed to support Kanawha County Schools and public libraries.

If the levy should fail, six libraries would be forced to close. Supporters say the levy also means keeping sports, after-school programs and adding technology for Kanawha County Schools.

Early voting runs until Nov. 6.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 10/25/13 @ 5 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Saturday is the first day to check yes or no for a levy designed to support Kanawha County Schools and public libraries.

If you live in Saint Albans, you've probably seen Jim Haught dropping off and picking up books from the library. "I use it four-to-five times a month, sometimes more, and I know a lot of my friends who do."

If the Kanawha County Excess Levy fails, his library will close, forcing Jim and others to drive to Charleston. "I just can't imagine not having a library."

Six libraries would be forced to close. Supporters say the levy also means keeping sports, after school programs, and adding technology for Kanawha County Schools.

Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Tom Williams says, "Textbooks are becoming a thing of the past and students need devices to access information and those will be available to them. We're also going to upgrade our career and technical centers."

Supporters say good schools attract good jobs, and more resources means more kids stay in class. "For every drop out we have, that costs taxpayers money because at some point we're going to have to support them rather than them supporting the community," Williams said.

Some say the bottom line is they can't take another hit.

"People out here are tired. We're over-burdened as it is with taxes and fees," says Charleston resident Wayne Crowder.

If the levy passes, it will cost the average homeowner 125 dollars a year. Money Crowder says he needs to keep. "We have to go to the grocery store. We have to go to the doctor. We're older and we have a lot of medical expenses."

To Haught, it's money well spent. "Every increase matters but it depends on what it's going for. If it's a worthy cause then it's insignificant."

For more on the levy, click on the link below.

ORIGINAL STORY 10/24/13 @ 10 a.m.
CHARLESTON ,W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It's almost decision time for voters in Kanawha County on whether to approve an increase to the school excess levy.

Early voting for the special election will kick off Saturday at Voter's Registration on Virginia Street in Charleston.

Kanawha County Clerk Very McCormick tells WSAZ.com a low turnout is expected for this special election. McCormick expects only about 9-percent of registered voters to vote.

McCormick believes football games and the Veterans Day holiday weekend will affect voter turnout.

Some school board members are pushing for this levy to avoid a potential budget deficit.

If the levy increase passes, it would provide additional funding for the county's school system for the next five years and help maintain the county's library system. The levy would generate more than $24M next year and by 2019 the levy would generate more than $28M for the school system.

For an average person with a home valued at $100,000 and $15,000 vehicle, the tax increase would amount to about $125 annually. It's a 50 percent increase over the current excess levy.

Kanawha County Superintendent Ron Duerring tells WSAZ.com this levy is about moving the county school system forward and to maintain the county's library system.

If the levy fails, some school board members say some school programs like art, music and the library would suffer cutbacks because the county faces a potential budget deficit next year.

However, not everyone is on board with the plan. Kanawha County School Board President Pete Thaw calls the levy a burden on taxpayers and says he actively working to defeat it.

Thaw has suggested the library and school board to reduce expenses rather than increase taxes.

Employees at Voter's Registration will spend much of Thursday making sure the voting machines and poll books are ready for the special election and early voting on Saturday.

Early voting will run from October 26 to November 6. Voter's Registration will be open on two Saturdays, October 26 and November 6, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. for early voting.

The special election is set for November 9.

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