CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's official: The Kanawha County school board will approach voters to approve another property tax to benefit the county's schools and public libraries.
That tax, if approved, will increase the amount of money voters pay to the school system by 50 percent.
The board approved the order for an excess levy with a 4-1 vote at its regular meeting Thursday after deliberating the idea for months - ever since financial projections showed the school system approaching a deficit in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
If approved by voters in a special election on Nov. 9, the new tax will raise $21 million for the school system and $3 million for the library in the fiscal year 2014-15. By 2018-19, the five-year levy is projected to raise $28 million for the school system with $3.7 million benefiting the library.
For a person with a $100,000 home and $15,000 in vehicles, the tax increase amounts to around $125 annually. That's 25 percent more than they would pay to benefit the school system otherwise, and a 50 percent increase over the current excess levy.
The idea behind the additional property tax is to "uncap" the board's current excess levy, which can, under the state constitution, generate up to 100 percent of its regular levy.
In the name of tax relief for the public, the board voted last year to propose an excess levy renewal with a flat cap. Voters approved, and that five-year levy - renewal of a tax that has existed in Kanawha County for decades - is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2014.
But since the board approved that plan, the county's financial situation has changed: Most recent projections show that without another tax, the school system is on course to butt up against a $2.5 million deficit next year and a nearly $3 million deficit by the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The debate has also been tinged by controversy related to a February state Supreme Court decision that found a 1958 law forcing the school system to help fund Kanawha County Public Libraries is unconstitutional, freeing the school system from a funding relationship it felt was unfair but leaving the library system scrambling to come up with nearly $3 million - 40 percent of its operating budget.
Both education and library officials hope this excess levy could be the answer. If approved, 5 percent of the tax will benefit the county's library system.