Commonwealth Journal

November 9, 2012

Library petition is fruitless ... but here’s some ideas

By JEFF NEAL, CJ News Editor
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

We have a conundrum in our community.
Many people resent the Pulaski Library Board raising taxes every year. They resent it so much that a petition drive is underway to dissolve the taxing district.
But that would lead to the Pulaski County Public Library closing.
And no one wants that, either.
So what do we do?
As it turns out, you just can’t fire library board members and replace them indiscriminately.
Kentucky law has taxing districts protected from a lot of political interference. And it’s hard to argue that’s an altogether bad thing.
On the other hand, the library board members answer to no one. So they can set the tax rate at whatever they see fit.
And if the public tries to disarm the board, the whole thing blows up.
So the petition drive is really a fruitless venture.
The debt on the new library is over $9 million. That debt will be paid off no matter what happens with the petition.
The stark reality is this: If the petition is successful and fiscal court dismantles the taxing district, then the library system in Pulaski County will collapse and your tax dollars (yes, you will still be taxed) will go toward paying off the debt.
And the beautiful structure we are so proud of will sit empty.
I simply believe the petitioners are barking up the wrong tree with their drive — especially since the library taxing district, with its huge debt, is booby-trapped. You mess with it and the result is the disastrous closing of our library.
For what it’s worth, here are my suggestions:
• Instead of petitioning for the dissolution of the library taxing district, why don’t the concerned citizens turn their attention to the legislation that covers it? Perhaps those laws should be altered to allow for some oversight by elected officials.
• If the board proposes a tax increase, put it on a ballot so the community can decide whether or not its warranted.
• And perhaps as a compromise, some of the current board members should offer their resignations and allow for replacements to be selected by Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock. Not to suggest the current board members weren’t playing within the rules, because they most certainly were. But if having a few new faces appeases the masses, that would be better than having the facility shut down.
In light of tax increases in two consecutive years, I can agree with the magistrates on wanting to be kept abreast of what’s happening at the library.
And I also concur that a tax increase, in this shaky economy, should be a last resort option.
I know the library tax seems to be very little. But to people who are struggling in these difficult times, every little bit counts.
Can there be more cuts in programs, materials or salaries at the library? These are constraints the private sector deals with daily.
I know these measures may be harsh, but there are a lot of businesses out there which are having to cope with wage freezes, furloughs, layoffs and cutbacks. Our library should be no different.
 
Jeff Neal in the news editor of the Commonwealth Journal. He can be reached via email at: jneal@
somerset-kentucky.com