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Top 10 of 2013: No. 3 — Library battles lawsuit over tax rates

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By The Staff

The Anderson Public Library joined several northern Kentucky libraries getting sued in 2013 by taxpayers that claim the special taxing districts had been collecting tax revenue illegally for decades.
The suit, filed by Lawrenceburg resident Harold Todd in Anderson County Circuit Court on behalf of taxpayers in May, mirrored three suits filed against northern Kentucky libraries in Kenton, Campbell and Boone counties.
The suit filed in Anderson contends that the library’s board of trustees has relied on House Bill 44 to set its tax rates instead of KRS 173.790, a statute that specifically governs how libraries formed by petition before 1984 are supposed to set tax rates.
KRS 173.790 requires library taxing districts to change tax rates only after securing the signatures of at least 51 percent of the number of people who voted in the previous election.
That petition would then have to be presented to and approved by the fiscal court.
That apparently has never been done despite the library being formed 46 years ago last month.
Libraries in northern Kentucky have argued that HB 44, created in 1979, is the controlling authority over their tax rates.
The library’s board of trustees had denied nearly all of the allegations in a class action lawsuit that accuses it of “unlawful taking” and seeks hundreds of thousands of dollars in refunds to taxpayers.
A rate of 25 cents would generate about $218,000, meaning taxpayers would be owed a refund of about $530,000, according to the lawsuit.
Circuit judges in Campbell and Kenton counties agreed with lawsuit plaintiffs when issuing their rulings earlier this year and forced libraries in those communities to revert back to their original tax rates.
No hearing date has been set in Anderson Circuit Court where Judge Charles Hickman is expected to hear arguments from both sides of the suit.
Although the library has hired an architecture firm to develop a feasibility study, one trustee has expressed her concern about moving forward on any type of expansion until the lawsuit had been settled.
Board member Jane Scott Bentley said she thought a feasibility study was a good idea during a September board meeting and voiced her concerns about the lack of space for patrons during programs held at the library, especially children’s activities.
“If the fire marshal came, we could be in some serious trouble,” Bentley said.
Although in favor of the feasibility study, Bentley said the board probably would need to wait until the lawsuit brought against the library was resolved.