"A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life." – Henry Ward Beecher
Recently, at the annual used book sale hosted by the Kanawha County Public Library, I was handed a button reading “I Support the Library.” But it wasn’t just a chintzy giveaway.
Today I cast a vote to show that support.
For you non-locals, there is a special election happening in my county regarding an excess levy that would provide needed funding to the county library and public school systems. And it’s causing quite the controversy around town.
The levy, good for five years, stands to bring in upwards of $24 million in its first year, with $3 million going to the libraries for things like the following:
- Recouping the lost 40 percent of the operating budget that was recently slashed
- Expanding programming efforts
- Improving facilities
- Reinstating the West Virginia Book Festival, the loss of which folks like me are still mourning
- Keeping branches open. The funding would help ensure that the main county library and its nine branches (and mobile library) could in fact stay operational. The library board has stated that without these funds, up to six branches and the bookmobile could close.
The remaining $21 million in first-year funds will go toward operational costs and improvements to Kanawha County Schools, which I won’t get into here. For a detailed discussion of how the funds would be used, check out this document. (It’s from the library, so it’s skewed in favor of those supporting it.)
So providing funds to the county public school system and libraries sounds all well and good, right? Why in the world would anyone be against such a thing?
Here are a few reasons:
- Two dreaded words: tax increase. According to figures, a person owning a $100,000 home and $15,000 in vehicles could stand to pay about $125 more in personal property taxes per year. That’s a lot of money to a lot of people. Supporters have tried to soften the blow by noting that it amounts to “less than 35 cents per day,” but is that going to change anyone’s mind?
- Lumping these two issues into one levy has turned off some people who say they deserved their own, separate votes.
- Holding a special election for this sole issue is costing lots of money, which is also rubbing some people the wrong way.
- A typical retort when a tax increase involves the school system is that they waste too much money as it is, won’t use this money properly and don’t need to be handed more from the taxpayers.
- The school board president is not in favor of this levy and has been quite vocal in his campaign against it (citing, basically, most of the reasons I’ve just listed).
Today was the last day to cast an early vote before Saturday’s election, so I headed downtown on my lunch break to vote yes in support of the levees.
Because, for me, the positives outweigh the negatives. As a writer, I will gladly support legislation that will help make our public libraries the vital community learning centers they should be. And the annual book festival was continually growing each year. I for one sorely missed it last month. Seeing it restored would be wonderful for both our regional authors and the readers who attend.
And, frankly, I’ve run my personal numbers. The tax increase isn’t an amount that turns me against the positive things that would come from it. It’s an added cost I can live with.
If you live in Kanawha County, consider heading to your local polling place on Saturday to cast your vote…hopefully in support of our libraries! And if not, well at least you’re taking part in the process.