Whitesburg KY

Library tax suit outcome of import to many

A case pending before the Kentucky Court of Appeals could affect how dozens of libraries across the state are funded.

The Kentucky Enquirer reports the decision could affect 79 library districts because they were created by petition but are funded through tax rates determined by House Bill 44.

Circuit judges have sided with residents who filed suit over the funding mechanism and say the tax rate should be rolled back to what it was in 1978 when the libraries were formed.

Attorney Jeff Mando says in a brief for the Campbell County Public Library that rates shouldn’t be rolled back because they are legal.

“The arguments that we put together provide a solid rationale for a court of appeals to see that the way libraries have set their rates does comply with the law,” Mando said, “not only its wording but its spirit and its intent as well.”

The Court of Appeals has agreed to fast- track the case. Briefs are expected to be complete in December and a ruling could follow early next year.

Attorney Brandon Voelker, who represents the citizens who filed suits against the Northern Kentucky libraries, said he thinks his clients will win on appeal.

“It’s basically the same issue being decided by a higher court,” Voelker said. “They are asking the higher court to determine that judges Summe and Ward determined the issue of law erroneously. Obviously, we think they were right on.”

A judge has ruled that the Campbell County Public Library can stay funded at its current level until the appeals process is completed.

Campbell County Public Library Director JC Morgan said rolling back the tax rate by more than 30 years would have devastating consequences. In 1978, the tax rate was 3 cents per $100 of assessed value; now, it is 7.7 cents. If the tax is reduced, the library’s budget would drop from $4.6 million to $1.9 million.

“We would retain some level of services, but the impact would be tremendous,” Morgan said. “Branches would close, our staff would be cut in half and some key services, such as childrens’ outreach, would have to be cut.”

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