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Court: Kanawha school board no longer forced to help fund library

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The State Supreme Court sided with the Kanawha County school board Friday, freeing it from its contested relationship with the public library and ending a decade-long legal battle.

Per the court ruling, the school board is no longer forced to allocate part of its annual budget to fund the Kanawha County library.

A 1957 state law dictates that nine school systems in West Virginia must turn over a portion of their budget to help fund public libraries in their counties. In Kanawha County, that would amount to a payout of nearly $3 million in the current fiscal year.

That relationship has been the subject of a legal battle between the two organizations. In 2003, school officials sued the West Virginia Department of Education to recover money they were forced to spend on libraries, arguing that the law requiring them to do so was unreasonable, and that they should receive a couple of million dollars more in state aid each year because of the requirement. The state Supreme Court ruled in the board's favor in 2006.

In 2007, the Legislature passed a bill in an attempt to resolve the controversy, but Kanawha County officials were not appeased.

The school board went to court again, and in 2011, Kanawha Chief Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib ruled that the 1957 mandate was unconstitutional, but rejected a request from the school system that would have required the library buy a bond to repay the school system.

Friday's Supreme Court ruling upheld that decision.

"It's about time that the library is no longer going to have a parasitic relationship with the Board of Education," said school board President Pete Thaw. "It's always been grossly unfair that we had to give money out of the classroom to support the library." Funding from the school board amounts to nearly 40 percent of the library's annual budget.


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