Are taxes too high? Or is trust too low?
Opponents of the Kanawha County school levy campaigned against the five-year, $131 million proposal on the argument that taxes are too high already and the school system needs to get by on the revenue voters previously approved.
Yes, taxes are too high, but it's primarily federal taxes that fund out-of-control U.S. government spending that are soaking up dollars that could otherwise fully fund local governments and charities as well as individual savings and investments.
Also likely: most of the 76 percent who voted "No" in last Saturday's election simply don't trust the school board, other than president Pete Thaw, to manage an efficient system.
Leading up to the election, Superintendent Ron Duerring pointed to several actions the school system has taken to reduce costs, including consolidating schools, reducing administrators, increasing the pupil to teacher ratio and more.
But those savings still evidently wouldn't make up for the $4.5 million deficit the board expects to face at the beginning of fiscal year 2014, when the levy that voters approved in 2012 goes into effect.
Instead of just trying to make up that deficit and restore full funding to libraries, the board decided to go big — asking for millions for projects such as technology and infrastructure upgrades and much needed improvements at the career centers.
These projects surely would have provided better
educational opportunities and outcomes, but the board failed to convince the voters. In fact, other than a meager KEY campaign, the board failed to even attempt to explain why the increased dollars for schools was needed.
Resoundingly, voters rejected the increase, insisting that the school system live within its means — just as the voters must do.
With only 5,501 "Yes" votes, it appears that many of the school system's own employees did not support the levy. School employees see the problems on a daily basis. Had they been asked in the proper way, they might have been helpful in identifying ways to reduce costs. They might have had good ideas for
improvements as well and subsequently better supported a new levy vote.
Besides better educational opportunities at schools, the Kanawha County Library system is the real victim here. Forty percent of its funding was contingent upon the levy passing. Many voters indicate that they would have supported a library-only levy, while still opposing the increased school levy.
Trust is not something that is given. It must be earned. Voters don't have enough trust in this school board and this superintendent to sign a blank check, no matter how worthy the investments funded by a higher levy might have been.