CHARLESTON, W.Va. - After successfully pitching tax relief to county voters last year, the Kanawha County school board is poised to go back to the well.
The board may ask voters - in a special November election -- to approve a new property tax beyond its regular and excess levies.
The new tax would raise $21 million in fiscal year 2014-15 for the school system and $3 million for the public library.
If approved, the new five-year levy would generate even more each year over the next four years. By 2018-19, it is projected to generate a total of $28 million - with $3.7 million going to the library.
In a special session Monday, the board approved the proposal in principle on a 4-1 vote, with Board President Pete Thaw against, but will take final action when details are worked out.
The idea is to "uncap" the board's excess levy, which under the state constitution can generate up to 100 percent of its regular levy. In recent years the board has proposed excess levies with caps as a strategy for finding favor with county voters.
The board's action is rooted in two factors - a court ruling that threatened library funding and the board's own panic over the projected deficits stemming from the capped levy approved by voters last year.
On the November ballot will be one box. Voters can choose to support the extra money for the school system and the restored funding for the library, or against both.
Over five years, the new tax would raise more than $130 million for the school and library systems.
For a person with a $100,000 home and $15,000 in vehicles, that's a tax increase of around $125 annually.
Right now, the school system will reap only around 65 percent of the money it is legally allowed to collect from citizens with an excess levy. That's because the school board voted last year to cap the amount of money the county can receive from the tax at around $44.2 million.
With the new tax, the board decided to ask the voters to fund the school system up to the full legal limit -- minus the 5 percent that would benefit the library.
Board treasurer Harry Reustle said there was some discussion of capping the levy at a percentage of the legal limit, but officials eventually decided to ask the voters for the full 35 percent.
"The fiscally prudent thing for some of us seemed to be that we've got to be able to squeeze some dollars out somewhere," said board member Robin Rector.
"We have holes in our budget we can't fill, so the public is going to have to pay for that one way or the other ... One way is that we have them pay for extracurricular activities or a lot of things that we don't have to charge for now, and in my mind a fair way to share that is going after an excess levy."