Pulaski County Considers Future of Public Library

Oct 26, 2012

Pulaski County residents are debating whether to dissolve their library board due to tax increases that have been enacted over the last two years. Library board attorney Bruce Orwin told the Commonwealth Journal that the move would shut down the library.

"One concern I've got is we're getting into a very dangerous legal situation regarding the library," Orwin said this week when the matter was brought before county officials, who have no control over the library board.

However, those who favor a petition calling for the dissolution of the board say the library wouldn't disappear from the community.

Barb Sanders said her citizens' group wants to re-establish a board under the purview of the Pulaski Fiscal Court. Her group has expressed concerns about the increases in the tax rate, which went up to 6 cents per $100 of real property in 2009. Although it stayed at that rate in 2010, it increased to 6.3 cents in 2011 and 6.4 cents in 2012.

"Nobody is saying the library doesn't do a lot of wonderful services," Sanders said. "They're preaching doomsday, like the library's going to close, it's not going to be here anymore, and that's not the case ... because the library will go on."

However, the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives spelled out possible ramifications in a letter to library director Charlotte Keeney that included closure.

"It is our opinion that the library would close and all staff would be terminated (with the possible exception of an administrator to oversee the debt repayment), as continuing operation of the library cannot be considered as necessary for the repaying of existing debts," Terry L. Manuel, branch manager in program development for the KDLA, wrote in the Oct.9 letter. " ... Further, the buildings and all furniture, books, and other material items would be subject to sale in order to satisfy existing debts."

The library has about $9.5 million in debt, mostly stemming from the construction of the current building which opened in 2008.

An opinion from the state attorney general says the taxing district would remain in existence until the debt is paid and state law prohibits creating a second special taxing district until the first is dissolved.

While county magistrates have also vocalized frustrations with increasing tax rates, they say they don't want to see the library closed.

Orwin invited them to meet with library board members and review the facility's budget.

"We all need to sit down, look at it, go over it," Orwin said. " ... I think you're going to find it's a very tightly run facility."