Board Wants to Continue Funding for Library

WHEELING – The Ohio County Board of Education will continue to fund the Ohio County Public Library into the future, board members agreed on Monday.

Ohio County Schools currently provides $531,592 annually to the library, or 40 percent of the library’s yearly operating budget. In voicing their support for the library, board members agreed the facility serves a pivotal and “essential” role in the local community.

The funding deal is part of a 1957 state law that required nine county school boards to provide funding for their local public libraries.

The West Virginia Supreme Court last month ruled that Kanawha County was not constitutionally required to continue providing library funding. That ruling has brought into question library funding here in Ohio County and elsewhere in the state.

Despite the ruling, Ohio County Board of Education President James Jorden proposed the board provide the same level of financial support to the library for the next school year.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Jorden said. “I believe that the Ohio County Public Library is a necessary partner in education with Ohio County Schools.”

Other board members also expressed their approval.

“My initial reaction to this has been of course we’ll continue to fund the library,” board member Sarah Koegler said. “I think with the way this budget has been handled … we do have the funding for the library. I think it’s important for us to hear from our constituents and the community.”

Board member Gary Kestner said he took a tour of the library Monday and “was very impressed” by the library’s services to the community.

“The computers were filled. The classrooms downstairs were filled. I had no idea what went on there. I have no doubts that we should continue to do what we’re doing into the future,” Kestner said.

The 1957 legislation affected Ohio, Tyler, Kanawha, Berkeley, Hardy, Harrison, Raleigh, Upshur and Wood counties.

School boards in these counties have been required to give 3 cents for every $100 in assessed property value in the county to their local libraries.

According to business manager Steve Bieniek, the district is budgeted to pay the library $531,592 for the 2013 fiscal year. The same amount will be included in the 2013-14 proposed budget, which will be available to the board and on display for public comment later in the month.

The budget will be up for approval in May.

Ohio County Schools’ 2012-13 budget shows that funding for community service programs including the Ohio County Public Library makes up less than 1 percent of the schools’ total expenditures. Total expenditures are listed at $57.67 million.

In other business, the board approved the hiring of M&G Architects and Engineers for the foundation repair and ADA ramp replacement project for the Triadelphia Middle School annex building. The board also approved the purchase of school bus radios through the county commission.