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Cabell BOE Questions Shouldering Burden of Funding for Library & Parks

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The Cabell County Board of Education has scheduled a meeting at 4:30 pm Tuesday, August 1st to discuss their excess levy and how proceeds will be allocated to the library system and Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District (GHPRD).

The Board of Education has already undergone fiscal “belt-tightening” from the loss of $11 million in federal ARP funds, lower enrollment, and rising costs of food, materials, and other inflationary changes.  These actions resulted in the elimination of some 80 employees this year.  The Board has proposed a significantly lower amount for the library and parks. However, this amount matches the funding recommended by the state.

The GHPRD receives around $600,000 per year from the Board of Education or the equivalent of ten teachers.  The Cabell County Library system receives around $1.4 million per year.  Combined the amounts represent about 3% of the county’s budget for teacher salaries, a line item that has increased by over 18% over the past 5 years.

https://tinyurl.com/boebudget

According to the WV Library Commission’s 2022 Report, the Cabell County Library system has a service population of 96,319 and 65 Full-Time Equivalent employees.  The library ranks fourth in the state by population behind Kanawha, Berkeley, and Monongalia and is followed by Wood County in fifth place.  

Overall the library budget is comparable to Kanawha County.  However, Berkeley, Monongalia, and Wood Counties take much less of their funding from the Board of Education.  What is also noteworthy is that in all the other top 5 counties, the Average Employee Compensation is almost 20% higher.  

The Cabell Library’s reports also show they receive the lowest amount in the state from the city with only $50,774 contributed vs $1.8 million from the county, and $1.4 million from the Board of Education.  

Libraries have become a resource for homeless people who rely on public libraries as a safe haven where they can stay warm, use public restrooms, and avoid law enforcement.  In many cases, libraries are on the front lines of the homelessness crisis.  In West Virginia, and specifically in Huntington the opioid epidemic has severely escalated the homeless population requiring these services.  This fact explains why the Cabell County library has a higher program attendance than all of the top 3 counties combined.

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New funding sources are becoming available through opioid settlement distribution programs.  The Cabell Board of Education’s proposal for the reduction in funding appears to be proportional to the services its students are consuming versus the community action requirements that the library has now been forced to adopt.   

Each community in the county uses their libraries differently. Barboursville has a new library across the street from the elementary school which is easily accessible to students. The main library downtown has a very different set of users which includes a significant amount of patrons who come to the library because it acts as a hub for community services.

Because the levy comes to a vote once every 5 years, taking action now may be a strategic move by the Board of Education that actually benefits the library system in the long run.

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  • Staff Writer

    From the WV Statewide News Team. Articles depicting “Staff Writer” indicate the content was prepared by several members of the news team.

From the WV Statewide News Team. Articles depicting "Staff Writer" indicate the content was prepared by several members of the news team.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Suzanne Rutherford

    July 26, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    I don’t believe I’d post my name on this article, either, Mr. or Ms staff writer. What this will do to the Cabell County Public Library is heartless! What percentage does the BOE fund for our public libraries? One or two percent??? You all can’t do better than that with your budgeting skills??? I’ll bet the head chief gets his pay raise! This is disgusting!

    • Staff Writer

      July 26, 2023 at 1:13 pm

      Staff Writer means more than one member of the news team contributed to the article.

      • Suzanne Rutherford

        July 26, 2023 at 1:58 pm

        Ok. Not your fault that the Cabell Co. BOE has become this greedy. When they took libraries out of schools, they said that public libraries would pick up that slack. So, this will simply do away with children’s & adult access to libraries. This Superintendent has no shame. A greedy man who could care less about the need of libraries within our school system.

  2. Amanda C

    July 26, 2023 at 4:33 pm

    The Cabell County Public Library received the highest honor a library can receive, The National Medal for Library and Museum Services in 2021. The nomination came from Joe Manchin with much support from the city, the news stations and community agencies. This award was primarily given due to the community resources provided to Cabell and Wayne County residents by Information and Referral who has been providing these services since 1976. Information and Referral assists families with multiple resources who are low income and homeless. Information and Referral is also home to the Empty Stocking Program. This is nothing CCL has had to adapt to in recent years, it’s something that has been in place. Primarily the programs I&R provide assist those from becoming homeless. I encourage you to call the library and ask about programming and remain neutral.

    • Staff Writer

      July 26, 2023 at 5:03 pm

      The data from the WV Library Commission shows that “Program Attendance” in Cabell is 3x more than Kanawha County, and more than Kanawha, Berkeley and Monongalia combined. That data anomaly shows that the services provided by the library clearly go above and beyond the services provided by other systems in counties of similar size and budget.

      We have not questioned the need for funding. We are not on one side or the other. We are simply illustrating there are needs the BOE may have to explore changing funding, and alternative sources of revenue that might be more appropriate in current times to meet the funding needs of the many services provided by the library.

      In our research we discussed the current Act of the Legislature with current legislators who were very open to making changes based upon the appropriateness of actual services being provided versus the services provided decades ago.

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