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Voters will likely vote on the levy again come November as organizers hope for more time to negotiate funding levels for libraries, parks

Voters in Cabell County on Tuesday rejected an excess levy to provide funding to the county schools as well as, in small part, parks and libraries.

With all precincts reporting according to WSAZ, 64% of Cabell County voters rejected the levy.

The levy would have totaled about $30.5 million for the school district over the next five years. Of that $30.5 million, nearly $1.6 million — about 4.5% of the total levy amount — would have gone to the Cabell County Public Library ($1.4 million) and the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District ($200,000).

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

Those organizers have said they hope that by failing the levy, they can buy time to come up with a better solution to support the schools as well as the parks and libraries.

Cabell County Superintendent Ryan Saxe, however, said in March that there is no guarantee a different levy will appear on the ballot in November, which is the last time the levy can be brought up until the 2026 election. The current levy expires in 2025.

Organizers in Cabell County, however, were not impressed with the changes that resulted from negotiations with the school board, saying the proposal was rushed, the funding was not enough and, if approved, would lead to inevitable cuts to both library and park services.

To buy time, community members began organizing against the levy, urging voters to reject the proposal in hopes of getting a better option up for a vote in November.

In August, board members unanimously approved a proposal for 2025 that zeroed out funding for the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District while severely cutting funds for the Cabell County Public Library system.

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 proposed 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.

Through negotiations with members of both organizations, the school district increased allocations to the levels that appeared on Tuesday’s ballot.

The Cabell County library system serves more than 90,000 people — the third largest reach for libraries in West Virginia.

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