Kanawha County's high school principals are standing firmly behind the school system's call for voters to approve an excess levy to benefit Kanawha County Schools.
The principals -- of the county's eight high schools and two technical schools -- jointly endorsed the levy Wednesday. Election Day is Saturday.
"We are on the front lines," South Charleston Principal Mike Arbogast said. "We see the benefits of the programs ... we have to make that investment into our future, into Kanawha County and into our local schools."
The new tax, an additional excess levy to the school system's regular levy and already-approved excess levy, would generate $24.4 million the first year it took effect, in 2014, and more over its five-year life.
The school board voted to pursue it to ward off a projected $2.5 million deficit in 2014. If passed, it would more than make up for that budget gap -- the money is benchmarked for a slew of items, like technology, extracurricular supplements and hardware and software improvements.
"We want to be on the cutting edge, and we want to be able to be a continuously improving state, and we're not going to be able to do that unless we have the passage of the levy," said Dianne Smith, principal at Nitro High. "Technology is going to be at a standstill, all the resources we could be expecting to come in would just dry up, and I think we'll just be in a real state of crisis."
A large portion of the money -- more than $7 million -- is tagged for upgrades to technical and adult education. It would let the county's technical schools add space and increase the size of programs -- putting Kanawha County in step with a national trend toward career and vocational education to train students for the modern workforce.
"We save a lot of our kids through career and technical centers, they in turn go out into the workforce which is ultimately going to help our taxpayers as they become active working citizens," said Phillip Calvert, principal at Carver Career Center.
About $3.2 million would go toward the county's libraries.
The tax represents a potential funding solution for the county library system, which has been scrambling to come up with that $3 million - about 40 percent of its operating budget -- since the state Supreme Court ruled in February that a decades-old law forcing the school system to fund the libraries is unconstitutional.
The proposed tax is a joint effort between the two public entities, and is the result of months of debate and compromise as they have struggled to redefine their fiscal relationship in the wake of that court decision.