CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Voters overwhelmingly rejected a new property tax to benefit Kanawha County's libraries and schools in today's special election.
With all 165 precincts reporting, the vote was 76.18 percent against the proposed excess levy, and 23.82 in favor. In all, 17,590 votes were cast against the levy, and just 5,501 in support of it.
Results are not official until after a Kanawha County canvass Nov. 15.
The proposed new tax, another excess levy in addition to the school system's already-approved regular and excess levies, has been a divisive issue within the school system. It was supported by four school board members, but opposed by board president Pete Thaw, who campaigned against the levy, railing against the idea of increasing the tax burden placed on the public by Kanawha County Schools.
The tax would have generated around $24 million the first year it was set to take effect, in 2014, and more each year over the five-year course of the levy. Five percent of that money would have benefited the county's libraries, with the rest going toward the school system.
The loss is devastating for the Kanawha County Library system, which has been scrambling to secure a new funding source since a February state Supreme Court decision ruled that the school system no longer has to fund the library, untangling a decades-old fiscal relationship that the school system maintained was unfair. Library officials have said that, without a new funding source to replace that $3 million annually -- around 40 percent of the library's budget -- the library system would have to make drastic cuts, potentially laying off employees and closing branches.For the school system, the levy means offsetting a projected $2 million deficit in 2014, and increasingly wider budget gaps in the following years. School officials have said that the failure of the levy would result in a slew of drastic cost-saving cuts to education programs.