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Libraries get victory in court

A Kentucky Court of Appeals verdict in favor of two Kentucky public libraries, overturning previous rulings alleging the libraries violated state law when setting tax rates.

The news was welcomed in libraries across the state, as a negative ruling could have forced the institutions to revert to tax rates set when the libraries were formed, conceivably costing them thousands of dollars in revenue.

The case originated in Campbell County in 2012 when a lawsuit was brought against the public library challenging the method of establishing annual tax rates. A similar suit was launched in Kenton County soon after.

The basis of the suits contended that the library districts were formed by petition, and are only allowed to raise their tax rates by similar method: a petition signed by 51 percent of registered voters.
Attorneys for the embattled libraries argued that a 1979 law, known as House Bill 44, states that special taxing districts establish tax rates based on the revenue they had received in the previous tax year.
A 2013 Campbell Circuit Court ruling upheld the plaintiff’s arguments, stating the 1979 law did not supersede KRS 173.790, which only allows for libraries created by petition before 1984 raise taxes by a public petition.

The ruling could have impacted 80 of the state’s 119 public library districts.

Following the ruling the embattled libraries filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals.

Last week the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruling upheld the library’s position that special taxing districts establish their tax rates based on revenue they had received in the previous year.

In the ruling the three-Judge panel ruled that the intent of the latter legislation was meant to apply to library districts as well, and the libraries has acted in good faith and “conducted their affairs in accordance with the directions of the Executive Branch.”

McCreary County Public Library Director Kay Morrow stated she was relieved to hear of the court victory.

“We are gratified by the decision of the Kentucky Court of Appeals affirming the method used for funding of public library taxing districts for the past 35 years,” she said. “Kentuckians in every county depend on their libraries as never before for education, information technology, literacy, and services of all types for all members of the family. We are relieved that the investment made in Kentucky’s public libraries will continue for the benefit of all Kentuckians.”
Morrow also added the current McCreary County Public Library tax rate is 7.7 cents per $100, not far from the founding rate of 7 cents in 1978.

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