A measure passed by a state House committee Tuesday seeks to answer questions about library funding that have led to several court cases in Kentucky.
The lawsuits charge that libraries created by petition have not been following a state statute requiring them to put all tax rate increases up for a similar petition vote. House Appropriations and Revenue Committee chair Rick Rand says legislation passed by his committee Tuesday would place petition-created libraries under House Bill 44, which allows special taxing districts to enact small annual tax increases without the petition process.
"The real problem is a lot of these libraries had been doing that, thinking they were doing the right thing. I don't think they were knowingly doing it, but this court case has brought it to light and many of our libraries have built, they've bonded, they've borrowed money based on that revenue stream. For us not to acknowledge that and to correct that inequity, I think, is wrong," Rand argued.
Petition-driven libraries had previously assumed they were covered under House Bill 44 until a circuit court judge found in 2013 that Campbell County had improperly set its library tax rate for more than thirty years.
The measure did receive some resistance from a few committee members.
Rep. Arnold Simpson told the panel, "To have this go forth and to remove them from the statutory provision [that] requires a vote of the people for increase is a stretch for me at this time."
If the rule change is not approved by the General Assembly and judges side with plaintiffs in the library cases, up to 79 counties could see their library funding rolled back to its original rate.