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Was that whiplash or a trial balloon?

Last year, the Kanawha County Board of Education prudently asked voters to approve a school excess levy that would raise no more than $44 million a year - $220 million over five years.

The public readily approved this restrained request.

Now the board thinks it is facing a $2.5 million deficit next year and was irrationally prudent in putting a flat cap on its excess levy.

So board members voted 4-1 this week to ask voters to approve a second school excess levy that would raise $24 million more - $21 million for the school system and $3 million for the Kanawha County Public Library - in the first year.

But this second school excess levy would not be capped, and would raise an estimated additional $131 million for schools and libraries over five years.

So that's $44 million a year from the first excess levy and $26 million a year from the second excess levy . . .

Huh?

The mind reels. It's like a whiplash injury followed by a direct hit from a lead balloon.

The public will have questions:

* Does this mean the recession is over and free-spending times are here again?

* Why would a possible $2.5 million deficit call for $21 million more a year and more in subsequent years?

* Why make a vote on a second school excess levy and a library levy an all-or-nothing proposition?

* Why would a board concerned about a possible deficit call for a special election, the most expensive election possible?

* And why schedule it for a Saturday? In the hope that those who favor a tax increase will turn out and those who have concerns will not turn out?

* Why would the board risk the trust it has earned with the public by putting forth such a wild proposal?

It's irrationally imprudent.

When a public body tells taxpayers it needs their $131 million over the next five years more than they need it themselves, it has to provide a really dramatic explanation.

Maybe the board can make such a case.

Certainly, its willingness to make common cause with the library is commendable. But it does not explain a proposed $131 million tax increase proposal.

The public will definitely keep reading.

 


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