ONE argument against Kanawha County's proposed $24.4 million levy for schools is that property taxes already are too high. But compared to other states, property taxes in West Virginia are among the nation's lowest.The median property tax for a home here is $464 a year, compared to $843 in Kentucky, $1,836 in Ohio, $1,862 in Virginia, $2,223 in Pennsylvania and $2,774 in Maryland.Median means an equal number of people pay more as people who pay less.Low property taxes are one reason why Kiplinger says residents in West Virginia pay fewer taxes overall than people in 40 other states.
When it comes to local levies, Kanawha County is in the middle of the pack, as 21 counties have higher school levy rates.On Saturday, Kanawha County voters will decide whether to raise the excess levy rate back to 100 percent, where it stood 20 years ago until voters dropped it to 93 percent, a figure that was lowered over time to 65 percent in last year's levy vote.The levy also will include a $3 million levy for libraries, the amount taxpayers gave the library through the school system until the state Supreme Court ruled the method for payment violated the state constitution this year.School board members included the library levy on the ballot because it represents about 40 percent of the library budget.In the words of school board member Jim Crawford, "The people of Kanawha County did not elect this board in order to close the library."The Daily Mail has supported the school excess levy since it began in the 1930s. Local control of schools is the best way to operate them.But with local control comes a commitment to local support of the school system. The schools are for the children and the future of Kanawha County. The responsibility for funding them comes not from Washington or the state Capitol, but upon the people of Kanawha County.Make no mistake, low taxes are preferred, but it's not worth sacrificing our region's future by skimping on our children's education today.