Library Officials Clash Over Budget Cut Request

Lexington, KY – Larry Smith says the accusation from some council members that the library is not helping "share the pain" is ridiculous. Smith argues the library has already made sharp reductions.

"Last year in March the city told us to expect a four point five
percent increase in property tax revenue. We thought that was
optimistic and so we based our 2009-10 budget on a two point five percent increase in property tax. And then in August we got word that from the city that we would be flat, and there would be no increase.
So we had some other un-budgeted items come up and so we ended up cutting our budget by five point four percent."

Smith says returning the money to the city's general fund, which is what the mayor is requesting, runs counter to state law. As the result of a 1979 lawsuit, the library is supposed to receive five cents out of every One Hundred Dollars in Fayette County property taxes; making it a dedicated tax. The distinction is important because state law says money collected for one purpose cannot be used for another.

"One, it's not legal, and two if we were to give that we would be suffering more than any of the city departments were. That would put us in the cut range of seven or eight percent".

Urban County Council member George Myers doesn't see it that way. He tells the Lexington Herald Leader that the city could have with-held the funding from the library in the first place. Myers says he also has problems with some of the salary bonuses the library has doled out and questions the financial viability of its downtown parking garage.