Public library funding remains contentious

An attorney for the Kanawha County Board of Education told the state Supreme Court Wednesday nothing has changed since a 2006 High Court ruling and the local school board is still being unfairly forced to allocate millions of dollars to the Kanawha County Public Library.

The 10-year funding battle was back before the court for oral arguments. Kanawha and nine other county school boards in the Mountain State are now required by law to allocate parts of their budgets to public libraries. It’s been that way for those nine counties since 1957.

The High Court sided with the local school boards in a ruling more than six years ago but Kanawha County School Board attorney Albert Sebok told justices Wednesday very little has changed even though the legislature adjusted how tax monies go to the counties. He says the nine counties are still left with losing money.

“The non-special act counties don’t have to give that two to three million dollars a year to their libraries. They can basically give all of it to their classrooms,” Sebok said.

Kanawha County Library Board attorney Christopher Winton says the funding should stay in place. He says the legislature has already determined that libraries are educational and the legislature has more power than a county school board.

“It can’t sue its creator, the legislature, merely to complain that it didn’t get enough funding,” Winton told the justices.

The Kanawha County Library’s budget is about $8 million, $3 million comes from the county school board.

Sebok says the school isn’t against public libraries and believes they aid education but he says it’s wrong to force some counties to fund them and some not.

“Why are these nine counties different than these 46 others?” Sebok asked.

The state Supreme Court is expected to hand down a written opinion later this year. The school board won the case at the circuit court level and the library board appealed.


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