Kanawha County is getting set to vote on a proposed school excess levy in order to fund the county’s library system, which recently lost the financial support of the county school district.
The proposal would increase the school excess levy from 29.82 cents to 45.9 cents per $100 for class II properties, and from 59.64 cents to 91.8 cents per $100 for class III and IV properties. According to the Charleston Gazette, this would equal a $125 per year increase for property owners with a $100,000 house and $15,000 in vehicles.
Several mayors in Kanawha County have spoken out against the proposal. Chesapeake’s mayor called the proposed increase “incomprehensible” noting that Kanawha County would be the only county with two school excess levies, while Belle mayor Buck Chestnut is opposed to the proposal because, “Most of our people are senior citizens and don’t have children in school anyway.”
But how big of a deal is Kanawha County’s proposed increase, compared to the rest of the state?
First, while it’s true that Kanawha County would be the only county with two school excess levy rates, in practice, it’s not that big of a deal. As the Gazette article notes, the proposal would lift the current cap on the school excess levy, allowing it to increase up to the maximum amount allowed under state law. So while there would be two levies, together they would equal the maximum rate of 45.9 for Class II property. And 21 other counties already have set their excess levies at the maximum rate.
If the proposal passes, Kanawha County’s rural district rate would be 125.64 cents per $100 for Class II property. While that’s higher than it was before, it’s still lower 8 other counties in the state, including neighboring Putnam.
So what would a typical tax bill in Kanawha County look like compared to the rest of the state if the proposal passes? Before the propsal, Kanawha County’s rural district rate is 109.56 cents per $100 for Class II and 219.12 cents per $100 for Class III. Statewide, the average levy rate for class III property, property outside of municipalities, was 219 cents per $100. This would make the class II rate for property outside a municipality 109.5 cents per $100, since class III rates are simply twice that of class II rates (average municipal rates aren’t separated out in the Tax Department data). So current Kanawha County rates are right at the state average.
That makes the proposed rate in Kanawha County about 15% higher than both the state average and the current rate, but as I mentioned earlier, still lower than eight other counties. So in the proposed scenario in the Gazette article, the taxpayer with the $100,000 house and $15,000 vehicles would pay $854 under Kanawha County’s current rate, which is roughly the same as the state average, and about $980 under the new proposal, a difference of $126, or just about what the Gazette reported.
As for seniors, whom Mayor Chesnut expressed concern for, the difference would be smaller, due to the Homestead Exemption. Seniors claiming the Homestead Exemption, again with the $100,000 house and $15,000 vehicles, would owe $635 before the proposal, and $729 after, for a difference of $94. And I think it goes without saying that you don’t have to have a child currently enrolled in school to realize the benefits of an educated population.
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