CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Voters in 2 West Virginia counties will vote Saturday on school excess levies. Polls are set to open at 6:30 a.m. in both Hancock and Kanawha counties.
The issue has been controversial in Kanawha County.
“If they pass the levy and fund the library and the school system then we’ll do what we said we would do with the money,” said Kanawha County School Board Member Jim Crawford. “If not, we will have to do what we have to do to run the system and keep it in the black.”
The majority of school board members would like to see the passage of the levy which would essentially take the cap off the current 65 percent excess levy and provide $3 million a year will the Kanawha County Library System.
The most outspoken opponent in Kanawha County has been school board president Pete Thaw.
“Number 1, it’s too large; number 2 they have never outlined to the people of Kanawha County what it’s for and number 3 they don’t have any direction,” Thaw said.
If approved the excess levy would generate $24 million for the school system in it’s first year, and then go up $1 million each year for the next 5 years.
“This is a very large and very serious expenditure of public money,” said Thaw. “Probably the biggest any of us has seen.”
Hancock County voters are being asked to approve a 5-year excess levy that provides about $7 million in additional tax revenues for the school system. The excess levy has been on the books in the state’s most northern county since 1949.
County officials said a Hancock County resident who owns a house worth about $75,000 would pay an additional $206 in taxes a year. The excess levy got 66 percent of the vote in 2008.
Back in Kanawha County, school board member Crawford said Saturday’s results may be too close to call.
“There are pros and cons, a lot of people of for it and a lot of people are against it. It’s going to be a close race,” he predicted.
Under the new levy, which is in addition to the capped levy that goes into effect next year, the property tax rate in Kanawha County could be raised to the full amount allowed by law, a 100 percent rate.
Board member William Raglin said a lot of unforeseen costs have come up since the passage of the capped levy which renders the need for another levy.
“The cap on the levy that we passed previously didn’t allow for inflation or to provide things that we were not aware that we would be shorted on because of some changes at the federal level,” he said.
However, Thaw argues the school system could run fine without the extra money.
“We can always do with what we have,” he said. “We have in the past and we will in the future.”
Only about 3 percent of Kanawha County’s registered voters cast ballots in the early voting period. Hancock County reported a better-than-expected early voter turnout.
Polls will close in both counties at 7:30 Saturday night.