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Officials expect low turnout for Kanawha excess levy election

Nov. 9 isn't just the date of a special election for an excess levy for Kanawha County's school and library systems.

It's also the day WVU's football team plays the Texas Longhorns in Morgantown. Marshall faces off against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers in Huntington. The state Soccer Tournament runs all day in Beckley. And it's the first day of a long, three-day weekend that includes Veterans Day on Monday, Nov. 11.

It's clear that that's a busy day for people in Charleston. What's still unclear is what that means for the elections, and the fate of the excess levy.

"I think that's one of the challenges, is getting people out to vote," said school board member Robin Rector, who is supporting the levy. "We just have to be really vocal to people to remind them."

School board President Pete Thaw, who is actively campaigning against the levy's passage, believes the busy day of the special election is designed to work in the levy's favor: He believes it will lead to low voter turnout, and that low voter turnout will be favorable to those lobbying for the tax's passage.

"They don't want to take a representative vote, they can't take a representative vote -- it's all rigged to make it difficult," Thaw said.

"If they could have Mardi Gras that day they'd have it."

The officials who are part of the campaign supporting the levy -- that's the other four school board members, as well as library officials -- say that high turnout is important to their interests, as well, and that they're stressing early voting in an attempt to get people to the polls.

Early voting is Oct. 26 through Nov. 6 at the Voter Registration Office at 415 Quarrier St. Hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through the week, except Thursdays, when voting is open until 7 p.m. Voting runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

The school system is seeking an additional excess levy to stave off a projected deficit in the coming fiscal year. The library system is trying to offset a blow to its budget dealt by a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year that found the law forcing the school system to fund the library unconstitutional.

The tax would raise $24.4 million the first year it takes effect, in 2014. That's $3.4 million for the county's libraries, which would restore funding to its levels before the Supreme Court decision. The rest would benefit the school system.

The special election for an additional excess levy for Kanawha County Schools, in addition to the one that voters approved last year, is being held at a cost of $350,000. Most of that money is coming from the school system's coffers. 

For a person with a $100,000 home and $15,000 in vehicles, the tax increase amounts to about $125 annually. That's 25 percent more than the person would pay to the school system otherwise, with its already-approved regular and excess levies. It's a 50 percent increase over the current excess levy.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.


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