Kentucky Court of Appeals Rules Library Tax is Legal
The Kentucky Court of Appeals in a 3-0 decision reversed two circuit court decisions in Kenton and Campbell counties that declared that libraries in those counties had improperly raised taxes for decades, according to a statement from the Kenton County Libraries.
The appeals court found the libraries can raise their taxes without having to gather a petition.
The lawsuits, filed by tea party activists, challenged the authority of library boards to raise property taxes without submitting a petition and putting it on the ballot. If successful, it would have rolled library taxes back to their rates in the 1970s and decimated library revenues, likely causing the closure of branches and other cutbacks. It would have affected more than 80 libraries around the state.
In its decision, the appeals court noted that not overturning the decisions of the lower court would adversely affect 80 libraries across the state. The appeals court found that the legal issues regarding taxing authority is best addressed by the General Assembly, not the courts.
The appeals court stated that it found the two laws in question, KRS 132.023 and KRS 173.790, do conflict with each other. The court found that the newer law, KRS 132, was intended to be the defining law.
“Considering the purpose of KRS Chapter 132, and its direct focus on taxing districts, other than governmental bodies and school districts, we believe it was the legislative intent that KRS 132.023 apply to library taxing districts formed by petition under KRS 173.720,” the court ruled. “While appellees/taxpayers argue that these provisions should only apply to library districts created by ballot and not petition, that interpretation defies logic and common sense given the circumstances that existed when the statute was originally passed in 1965.”
The court did find that KRS 173 takes effect when the tax increase requested is greater than four percent, and would require voter consent for a higher rate.
We’ve embedded a full text copy of the decision at the bottom of this post.
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- Statement From Cathy Howard, President, Campbell County Public Library Board of Trustees
We are thrilled the Appeals Court firmly and unanimously ruled in our favor. The Court set a strong precedent with this ruling. We are happy to move forward from this litigation and focus on serving the public. The Court’s decision confirms that this library and other libraries across the Commonwealth have been acting in good faith, following the direction the legislators intended. We have always been open and accountable to the taxpayers, providing the best library services possible for the people of Campbell County.“ (Source: Campbell County Library Lawsuit Web Page)
- Comment by Kenton County Public Library Executive Director Dave Schroeder
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,…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.” (Source: River City News)
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.