March 2, 2013
For library levies, supermajority vote hard to get
Chris Dorst
Connie Wallace of Scott Depot reads to her great nephew, Coleton Magnus, 3, of Boone County, Saturday at the Putnam County Main Library near the Teays Valley exit of Interstate 64.
Chris Dorst
Library Clerk Verna Carr helps a patron at the reference window next to the computer room at the Putnam County library.

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- If it were just a matter of more people wanting a library levy to pass than fail, the director of the Putnam County Library believes one already would have passed.

The levy needs 60 percent of voters to pass, though, and the county has failed four times recently to hit that mark. Sometimes, it's been agonizingly close.

"One was even 59 point something," library director Steve Christo said.

The West Virginia Library Association is one of several groups asking legislators to vote for House Joint Resolution 29, which would allow state voters to decide whether to eliminate the supermajority rule for levies.

"It would be a constitutional amendment, so it would have to be put on the ballot of a statewide election," said Myra Ziegler, president of the library association.

Last month, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the Kanawha County Board of Education no longer is required by law to divert a portion of its budget to the public library each year -- meaning the library would lose about 40 percent of its annual $8 million budget.

At a meeting Tuesday, Kanawha library officials discussed pushing for an excess levy to support the library through the school board, the Kanawha County Commission or the city of Charleston, as they plan how to move forward without funding from the Board of Education.

Karen Goff, secretary of the West Virginia Library Commission, said about 40 libraries in the state are funded through some sort of levy arrangement. Only Fayette County has a library funded with a county commission and board of education levy, Goff said. "It doesn't happen very often," she said.

To get the measure on the ballot for public vote, the county commission and/or the school board must agree, according to Goff.

If Kanawha's library were to get the levies, it would generate additional money from what the county and city already provide, she said.

Ziegler, who also is director of the Summers County Public Library, said Summers has never been able to meet the supermajority required.

"We've only gotten about 51 percent," she said. "We are on a city levy, but [Hinton] has such a small population, the tax base only generates $6,000 a year."

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