July 23, 2024
Funds

Cabell school board restores levy funding to parks, library • West Virginia Watch


A school levy that Cabell County voters rejected in May will get one more chance this fall, this time with funding fully restored to the county’s parks and libraries.

The Cabell County Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved restoring its excess levy call to include $575,979 to the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation Department and about $1.9 million to the Cabell County Public Library. 

The levy, if approved by voters, will total about $30.5 million annually over five years. 

The change comes less than a month after the board voted to hire former Mason County school superintendent Tim Hardesty to replace Ryan Saxe, who was hired as the new superintendent for Berkeley County Schools. 

“In mid-August, I will be focused on educating children. But for the next few weeks, my sole focus, and the focus of the Cabell County Board of Education, will be to reconnect with the community,” Hardesty said in a written statement Wednesday afternoon. “A time of healing and coming together has begun.”

In May’s primary election, Cabell voters rejected a levy that would have allocated $1.4 million to the Cabell County Public Library and $200,000 to the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District.

The levy’s failure was, in part, the result of community organizing by residents angered by the board’s move to cut funding for both the parks and libraries and what they saw as a rushed negotiation process.

In August, board members unanimously approved a proposal for 2025 that zeroed out funding for the parks district while severely cutting funds for the library. 

The funding changes came in the face of a $4.5 million budget shortfall for the school district, which leaders have said is the result of enrollment declines as well as the expiration of one-time COVID-19 relief dollars.

Both organizations filed suit against the school district upon the school board’s approval of the previous levy, with the goal of keeping the levy at its current funding level for the next several years on the grounds that school board members cannot undo the will of voters.

Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Howard ruled in favor of the parks and libraries, which meant the school district would have had to fund both entities under policies passed by voters via the 2018 excess school levy. The case, however, was appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, where justices sided with the school board in saying it had no obligation to provide funding for either the parks or libraries.

The levy will be on the ballot for the November general election. It needs a majority of voters to pass. 

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