THE Kanawha County Board of Education decided to hold a new excess levy election on Nov. 9. If passed, the levy will raise an additional $21 million in its first year for the county's 69 schools, while also providing $3 million for libraries.
Daily Mail Education Reporter Shay Maunz reported that for a person with a $100,000 home and $15,000 worth of vehicles, a property owner would pay higher taxes of about $125 annually, or roughly $10 per month.
But it's not a good sign that the Board's own president, Pete Thaw, is campaigning against the levy, even to the point of printing brochures at his own
expense and speaking to groups against the measure.
Thaw was first elected in 1998 and has won reelection three times. Not one to be shy about his displeasure over school expenditures or certain programs, Thaw campaigned on keeping costs to taxpayers low.
The school board went to Kanawha County voters in 2012 and asked them to pass an excess levy. That levy included a cap on the amount of taxes property owners would pay to support schools. The cap on the levy was a feather in Thaw's cap, who strongly supported the 2012 levy campaign.
Now, the board finds itself facing a potential $4.5 million deficit in future years with the cap in place, and in July voted 4-1, with Thaw dissenting, to ask voters to forget the cap and approve a new levy.
For that, Thaw is not happy.
But to sell voters on the idea, the board needs to communicate well. It needs to show good reason to raise a levy it just capped in an election cycle one year ago.
And in the alternative, Thaw would do well to identify specific areas where the board could save.
Thaw rails against county bureaucracy. But it shouldn't be forgotten that much of the bureaucracy is due to burdensome regulations imposed on school systems by the state.
A major step in reducing bureaucracy at the county level could be for the governor and Legislature to revisit the recent statewide education efficiency audit and do more than just re-regulate existing regulations as it did in 2013.
Strong and effective public school and library systems benefit the entire community. Yet, those systems need to be run as efficiently and effectively as they can. Requests to voters for additional public money must be made sparingly.
For this levy to pass, voters need to know specifics. Otherwise, the board may wind up implementing Thaw's alternative recommendations.