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Do Kanawha voters want higher taxes?

Kanawha County voters have for years provided extra money for their school system by approving a school excess levy. The public's willingness to do this depends in large part on whether it thinks the system uses funds wisely.

The school board must balance the needs and desires of the system against the willingness of taxpayers to pay higher property taxes.

Ask for too much, and taxpayers balk, which they have done in the past. Ask for too little, and the system runs into trouble.

Kanawha County residents voted in May to cap the amount the system will receive at the $44.2-million-a-year level through 2019.

That's not chump change; it's $221 million out of taxpayers' budgets over five years.

Some school officials worry that a system facing higher utility bills and construction costs and less funding from other sources could come up short.

That's a reasonable concern.

But as the Daily Mail's Dave Boucher reported, at the other end of the continuum, some favor a levy that would provide a great deal more money for the system. They are circulating a petition to that effect.

Because of the cap, the levy rate currently stands at 67.29 percent of the legal maximum the school system could charge.

Petitioners want the board to set the rate at the legal maximum - 100 percent. Had that rate been in place this year, Kanawha County schools would have received an additional $20.9 million in just one year.

At least some of the support for higher property taxes comes from people concerned about overcrowding of John Adams Middle School.

Many favor expansion of that school - hence the need for more money - rather than redistricting that could send children to South Charleston instead.

There's nothing wrong with lobbying one's fellow taxpayers to change a decision they made in May, but prevailing will not be easy.

"The excess levy cap has taken a total of 148,235,000 in possible funding from our schools since 1999," the petition says.

And from another point of view, kept more than $148.2 million in taxpayers' pockets.

Maintaining support for the school excess levy may depend on such consideration.

 


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