WHEELING — In a tightly contested 3-2 vote, the Ohio County Board of Education voted to lessen payments to the county library by a third.
At Monday evening’s board meeting, the board voted to reduce the funding provided to the Ohio County Public Library from three cents per $100 of assessed county property value, as has been the standard previously. David Croft, Molly Aderholt and Christine Carder voted in favor of reducing the funding to two cents per $100. Grace Norton and Pete Chacalos voted against the measure.
In 2013, The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Kanawha County was not constitutionally required to continue providing library funding, which brought into question library funding across the state. At the time, the Ohio County BOE agreed to continue providing the same level of support for the following year.
Reducing the funding by one cent is projected to lower the next fiscal year’s funding to the library from approximately $884,547 to $589,698.22. Since at least 2013, this funding constituted around 40% of the library’s operating budget.
Croft proposed leaving the funding rate at two cents and not lowering it further unless the school board faced truly dire financial straits.
“Our position has never been that the library doesn’t provide a valuable service. We’re just trying to be good stewards to deploy our dollars to the best use of our systems,” Croft said.
Library Board Treasurer Greg Marquart said during the meeting that that the library and the school board worked toward the same goals regarding the spread and preservation of education, and the enrichment of young minds.
He told the board that he hopes they’ll revisit the issue and consider restoring the funding once finances improve.
“As a library board, we’re certainly willing to help the school system too. We’re all in this together, all working towards educating these children, and in our purview, we’re looking to have education for the adults, as well. We’ll be, certainly, able to get by for this year, I think, but hopefully we can revisit it next year and look at where we’re at.
Following the meeting, Marquart said the library’s administrators would need to discuss among themselves later what effect this would have on their functions, whether they would need to seek other funding sources to make up for the loss, or if programs and services would be affected. Other members of the library’s board did not wish to comment, saying Marquart spoke on their behalf.
Before the vote, Chacalos weighed in on the value of the library, arguing in favor of its full funding. Chacalos said he continually sees children hard at work at the library, and that cutting their funding was doing both the library and the kids a disservice.
“I visit the library quite often doing research — pre-COVID of course — and every time I go there, there are kids there. Kids that are studying, kids working on projects, kids doing homework. I know a lot of kids, especially kids without a very good homelife, that’s the only refuge they have to work on things and get some studying done in relative peace and quiet,” he said. “… We are, in my opinion, doing them a disservice by cutting any funding. We can’t afford to have any kids fall through the cracks, and I think by not maintaining the current level of contribution, we’re at risk of doing that.”
In other matters, the board recognized Amy Yost, of Warwood Elementary, as the Ohio County Schools Teacher of the Year. Yost was first hired in 2013 as an early childhood and career education teacher at Wheeling Park High School, and was subsequently hired at Warwood for the following school year.
Jody Miller, the central office’s Federal Programs Secretary, was named Service Personnel Employee of the Year. In addition, Miller is actively involved with the Students Against Drunk Driving programs at WPHS and throughout the school system.