The Kanawha County Board of Education no longer has to give a portion of its budget to the Kanawha County Public Library.
Kanawha County and eight other county schools systems have been required by law to give millions of dollars to public libraries for 56 years. Lawmakers passed the bill in 1957.
The state Supreme Court Friday ruled in favor of the BOE in a written order that came down Friday afternoon.
“We no longer have to pay the library board three million dollars a year,” said Kanawha County Board President Pete Thaw.
The $3 million figure is just a ballpark figure, according to Thaw. But he said this has been a bad deal for the county.
“The library has carried on a parasitic relationship with us where we have to pay them education money,” said Thaw. “It’s been wrong all this time and now it is over.”
In the ruling, justices said the law violates equal protection principles because it treats county school boards required by law to provide financial support to non-school purposes less favorably than county school boards with no such requirement.
The High Court ruled that the law directing money to the Kanawha library is “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”
Friday’s ruling puts an end to almost a decade long funding dispute that started when Kanawha County Board of Education members first filed a lawsuit over the issue back in 2003.
The extra funds being freed up with this ruling will help considerably a school system that has been running under a tight budget. Thaw said it will be put to good use.
“The board is going to use it for things they were concerned about funding and we have a number of projects that we were wondering how we were going to fund them and now we can fund it with this money,” said Thaw.
Thaw said now, instead of the money going into library salaries for the Kanawha County Public Library, it will go into education, into the classroom.
Library officials had warned that a ruling in favor of the school board could devastate the library’s programs and services in the county.