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Library Legislative Day was held on March 6. This special day was designated for Friends of Kentucky Libraries and librarians across the state to meet with their representatives and talk about issues facing Public Libraries. Library supporters from Marion County had the opportunity to travel to Frankfort that day and speak to Rep. Terry Mills and Sen. Jimmy Higdon. The day was a huge success but alas it is but one day.
On Sept. 3, 1970 The Lebanon Enterprise ran another article detailing another such special library day. The piece proclaimed the opening of the new Marion County Public Library as “A Mark of Progress.” It went on to say that the “library is a credit to every citizen who annually pays the tax levy that makes the library possible.” Photos were shown of the new building and space that would afford the board and staff to offer even more services, resources and programming. The news was optimistic and full of expectations for an exciting library future.
Today, 44 years later, I write my own article with lessened optimism. As spring approaches I, as library director, begin the process of planning the yearly budget for the Marion County Public Library. This year, I will prepare more than one version of our budget, each version hinging upon the issues that currently face libraries and how they will affect us if their outcomes are negative.
Kentucky libraries have been living under the shadow of funding cuts for some time now. State funding has been cut by 10 percent for several years. The state library itself has been cut to the bone, losing services, employees and all the while continuing to do their best to offer funding supplements to libraries. Supplements that often times mean keeping the doors open on facilities.
Recently, we were made aware that Kentucky PVA’s would like to implement a tax on the tax that provides funding for special taxing entities. School districts would be exempt from this, but entities such as the library, extension office and health departments would be affected. The new fee would be $0.005 per $100 in assessed property up to a certain maximum percentage of a district’s total property tax receipts. The fee proposed would cut our library budget $45,738, annually.
Prior to this news other worries have loomed over us with issues facing several northern Kentucky libraries. In these counties they are arguing that the libraries had been collecting tax funds improperly. They state that the Attorney General’s opinion regarding the bill that the libraries have used as basis for how they’ve collected tax funds, since the 60s, is invalid. This is still in the courts but their outcome will ultimately affect almost every library in the state. If the outcome is negative, it would mean that libraries would be required to return their tax rate to their original levied number. In our case it would remove another $127,228 from the yearly operating budget as well as other numerous fees involved in this process.
Since Marion County’s library was formed, built anew in 1970, and built onto in 1993, we have been blessed with an ever-solid library board. The board and librarians past and present have worked hard to keep tax to a minimum and to utilize the funds allotted them in the most responsible manner. They strive to make the best resources available for the public and continued to look toward the future when the library would need to grow again to keep up with the population. Their plan being to pair their longtime savings with building grants provided by the state, sadly these state grants aren’t being funded.
It seems that at every turn there is less support and possibly liquidation of the savings that were set aside for the future. Growth doesn’t feel like a possibility when it seems that we are merely trying to hold on to what we have. Kentucky libraries are hurting. Despite roadblocks they continue to strive to offer the best possible services and resources, to offer what their counties want and need. They strive to be there for Kentucky citizens, “Every Day, Every Age.” They merely hope that the citizens they serve will support them, “Every Day, Every Age.”
Please support your local library and libraries across the state. Be our voice not on just one special day but “every day.” Let our representatives at a state and local level know that libraries are a valuable service and important to Marion County residents. Tell them to vote no on taxing a tax and ask that they fund the building grants that will help us look forward once again to a bright future.
Editor’s note: Amy Morgeson is the director of the Marion County Public Library.