TO the thrill of opponents, the disappointment of supporters, and the surprise of few, the Kanawha County levy to provide $131 million dollars to schools and libraries over five years failed with three no votes to every yes vote.
That's not good news for students or for the future of Kanawha County.
Passage of the levy would have restored the library system's funding to its original levels before a State Supreme court decision changed the way it is funded. Now, the library system faces a 40 percent loss of revenue.
A yes vote would have allowed the state's biggest school system to invest in better vocational and technical education facilities and programs, something that is needed by local business and industry more than ever.
It also would have meant additional funds for enhanced technology programs, high-speed Internet lines to schools, extracurricular activities and more.
The campaign was a divisive battle with a bad ending. But it didn't need to be.
The organizers of the levy election could have -- should have -- done a much better job.
The first sign of caution was that the board was back asking voters to pass a levy just 18 months after they had approved a five-year levy in May 2012. That levy was capped at $44.5 million. Soon, the board learned the school system would be facing a $4.5 million deficit the first year that levy took effect. Did no one at the Board of Education see that coming before the 2012 levy election?
The other cautionary sign is the relatively close-to-the-vest way in which the new levy proposal was decided. After learning the 2012 levy was too little, the board limited public discussion about what to do and decided in June, with little input, to seek a new $131 million five-year levy. That amount included $17.5 million for libraries over the period, including funds to the libraries in South Charleston and Nitro, which are funded by their respective cities and not part of the Kanawha County public library system.
Citizens had many questions:
Upon learning of the pending deficit, why didn't the school board hold public meetings around the county to seek input about what to do?
Why weren't the school and library levies voted on separately?
Who decided the seven line-item figures for schools and how did they come up with those amounts?
Why did it seem to take so long for the KEY Committee, which conducted a campaign for the levy, to get started and why didn't their campaign provide specific information? Why were there not more grass roots efforts?
The question now is: What is the library board and school board going to do?
Like the election debate itself, this won't be pretty.