Cars honk at the sea of clever signs waving outside of the BoE building, the crowd is electric with anticipation of the Excess Levy vote.

HNN’s two hour video summary experience of the five hour meeting.

“They can try again”

A brief interview with Parks and Rec Commissioner Josh Keck:

Josh Keck: Hi, I am Josh Keck. I’m a Commissioner for the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District and we’re impacted by this funding along with the Cabell County Library so we’re just here to support our parks and libraries.

ERIKA LAWSON, HNN: Excellent. What do you think will happen if we don’t get this funding? What’s at risk?

KECK: Well, library closures, park operating hours may have to go- well, it’s hard. It’s really hard to say because this funding doesn’t. We don’t get this money for two more years so we’ll have a totally different board on the library [and a] totally different board on the parks by that time, but ultimately, people are gonna lose their jobs. Recreation is going to suffer. We may have to even sell property. I mean, we’re certainly not gonna be able to build any new parks because that’s money we won’t have for maintenance. And we have plans on building a park right now. Who knows if we’ll be able to without the funding…

LAWSON: It seems like this board might be lazy and make a selfish decision that makes other people have to make very tough decisions…

KECK: You know, I mean, I’m a finance professor. So, if I was going to grade them on fiscal responsibility, they’d have a failing grade because you don’t save people’s jobs by robbing Peter to pay Paul. If you want to save jobs, you go to the legislature and you ask them where’s the $2 billion surplus? Why are we cutting taxes instead of funding PEIA? There’s a bigger fish to fry here. The laziness is them not willing to fight for their teachers and their students and their community. The fight needs to happen in the legislature to get the funding that they should have.

LAWSON: Awesome. Thank you so much, Josh. I appreciate it.

KECK: Thanks, Erika.

Erika Lawson & Josh Keck

There was such a huge turnout for the Cabell County Board of Education meeting that it got moved from the regular room into the auditorium.

The crowd enthusiastically cheered for the many stellar accomplishments and awards earned by the FFA students of Cabell County during the presentation ceremony held before the board addressed the Excess Levy.

After five hours of public record statements made by the board regarding their financial reasoning and status, open discussions with their lawyer, and over 40 passionate pleas from members of the community about the value of our parks and libraries; in a move of what seems to be willful negligence, the BOE voted unanimously to accept the Excess Levy without making any budget changes. This will result in a funding reduction of $1.7million to $195,000 for the Cabell County Library System and the funding for the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District will be reduced from $550,000 to $0.

While it is not typical for a county to have the Board of Education decide Excess Levy funding for parks or libraries, acts of the WV legislature in the 1960’s and 1980’s have made these three agencies intertwined in what seems to be a philosophically driven attempt at forced community cooperation. A significant amount of funding has in good faith been transferred to the parks and libraries over many decades so it is shocking and sour to suddenly snatch it away almost entirely. Since this partnership is not thriving, it would seem logical to pursue separation of these agencies so that the Board of Education is not put in this deciding position but that would require some action at the state level in Charleston. The Excess Levy will be added to the May 14, 2024 Cabell County election.

HNN’s instagram story of play-by-play action. (4:32 minutes)

Salaries of the Board members were questioned by members of the public during the meeting so it’s worth circulating that according to the Cabell County Schools Policy Manual (Last revised May, 2009) (code po0147):

“Board members may receive compensation at a rate not to exceed $160.00 per meeting attended, but may not receive pay for more than fifty (50) meetings in any one (1) fiscal year. Expenses of a Board member incurred in the performance of his/her duties and expenses of a member-elect in training and orientation will be paid, provided that each such member or member-elect submits an itemized sworn statement of his/her expenses for approval by the Board.” Board members serve four year terms.

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