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Do Kanawha schools need more money?

In 1993, Kanawha County voters rejected a school excess levy that they had kept in place for 56 years. It was quite a shock to the school system.

That board cut the rate from 100 percent of the maximum allowed to 97 percent. Voters passed it.

Since then, board members have capped the rate for the school excess levy, but the system still received additional revenue when assessments rose or new property came onto the tax rolls.

Last year, members of the Kanawha County Board of Education voted to cap the amount of money the school system would receive from its excess levy each year at a flat $44.2 million. Those funds make up about a third of the school system's $238 million-a-year budget.

The excess levy included $20 million to revamp heating and air conditioning and improve efficiency.

But in December, Kanawha School Superintendent Ron Duerring and Treasurer Harry Reustle said the flat cap on revenues could leave the system facing a $4.5 million budget shortfall on the first day of fiscal year 2014 and a $7.3 million deficit by the end of fiscal year 2018.

Some board members are worried as well. Pete Thaw is somewhat skeptical.

Voters and taxpayers will want to hear more before they form an opinion.

The school system had enough money - with state funds - to build two new West Side schools without borrowing via a sale of bonds.

It had enough money to commit $20 million to heating and cooling. Will that lower operating costs?

The school system proposed to consolidate old elementary schools in the eastern part of the county into a modern elementary. Would that save money?

Energy prices could affect costs. The outcome of a case over library funding could affect revenue.Redistricting could affect costs.

It's all as complicated as family budgeting, and board members will have to work through the details so the public can follow the conversation.

The state School Building Authority is miffed that the Kanawha board capped its levy. Good to know.

But only Kanawha County voters are qualified to decide what must or merely could be done and what they can and cannot afford.

They, too, face financial stresses.

Maintaining the trust of the public is critical, as board members were reminded in 1993. Losing it can be expensive.


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