WURTZ: Rocky punches Kentucky taxpayers in the gut

Posted by on February 24, 2015


Kentucky House member, Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook)


On February 23, Kentucky House member, Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook), filed legislation (HB492) to grant an unconditional pardon to government employees guilty of illegal activities. What? Adkins apparently believes laws broken by government employees working for a library are above Kentucky law.

Here’s a little history.

Did you know that there is a specific statute that clearly spells out how a library created by a petition drive, like Kenton County Library, must secure petitions to increase taxes? For over 30-years, Kenton County Library and other libraries continue to raise taxes and ignore the petition requirement?

Concerned taxpayers filed a lawsuit against the Kenton County Library and Campbell County Library for illegal taxation. Kenton County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Summe and Campbell County Circuit Court Judge Julie Reinhardt Ward ruled the libraries illegal confiscated taxes by refusing to properly secure petitions prior to raising taxes.

Adkins now wants to repeal the sections of the law (173.610 and 173.790) that requires libraries to secure a certain number of petitions before raising taxes and granting amnesty dating back to 1979. These libraries ignored the law and let their boards raise taxes.

Here’s KRS Section 173.790 spelling the proper way for petition libraries to increase taxes:

173.790 Increase or decrease in tax levy; procedure

“The special ad valorem tax rate for the maintenance and operation of a public library district created pursuant to KRS 173.710 to 173.800 before July 13, 1984 shall not be increased or decreased unless a duly certified petition requesting an increase or decrease in the tax rate of a specifically stated amount is signed by fifty-one percent (51%) of the number of duly qualified voters voting at the last general election in each county in the district. Such petition shall be filed with the fiscal court in each county in the district not later than ninety (90) days after the date of the first signature. The fiscal court shall order the court to increase or decrease the ad valorem tax, as stated in the petition.”

This statute requires the petition libraries to submit 51 percent of validated signatures in the last general election (23,951 in Kenton County for 2014) before increasing tax rates.

Kenton and Campbell County Libraries raised taxes without any petitions. Adkins is trying to repeal this law in the 2015 General Assembly. Here’s the relevant section of Adkin’s bill:

“Any tax rate levied by the board of a public library district from February 13, 1979, through the effective date of this Act pursuant to the provisions of KRS 132.023 and 132.024, shall be deemed a valid levy of an ad valorem tax, regardless of whether the public library board also complied with the provisions of KRS 173.610 or 173.790 in effect at the time the ad valorem tax was levied.”

If the libraries did nothing wrong in collecting taxes, why file a bill to change the law all the way back to 1979?

How did this happen? Several years ago I stumbled onto a piece of correspondence dated July 11, 2011 issued by the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives (KDLA) about increasing taxes. I was shocked by a couple of simple facts in this report. The document states:

“State government, city and county governments, as well as special taxing districts were covered by the provisions of HB 44. It should be noted here that public library districts have historically been considered to be special taxing districts and are, therefore, subject to HB44.” (House Bill 44 allows taxing entities to increase taxes by 4 percent per year without voter approval.)

Excuse me? Historically considered? What does that mean? The law (KRS 173.910) sounds pretty clear to me. How did this “switch” from the libraries 51 percent petition requirement magically change to HB44 automatic tax increase happen?  Did “petition” libraries just assume that House Bill 44 applied to them so they adopted its taxing goodies instead of the painful petition process?

The law that KDLA quoted in their correspondence about taxing without voter approval (KRS 132.010 thru 132.025) is excruciatingly detailed. There are 7,333 words of pure detailed legal psychobabble in these sections, but something odd jumped out at me. Not one time in all the definitions or detailed text did it use the word “library.” Not once!

Is it possible this legislation purposely omitted any reference to libraries because the law already specifically created legislation (173.910) defining how libraries can secure tax increases? I say yes!

Is that how the law works? Are laws optional for government employees? If libraries don’t like a law, can they just find and adopt another law that is more advantageous?  I guess if no one stops them they can.

Please contact your state senator and state representative and demand they vote against Adkins HB492. Even libraries must follow the law.

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Tom Wurtz

President at Tom Wurtz Consulting
Tom Wurtz is the President of Tom Wurtz Consulting and former President & COO of a $70 million consulting firm in Cincinnati, OH. He’s a leadership & profit consultant, keynote speaker, trainer, columnist, founder of the Eagle Leadership Academy and author of three books. He has published over 900 business and libertarian/conservative political articles. In 2012, he unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Congress in Kentucky’s 4th District. Tom resides in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky and has been married to his third-grade sweetheart for 38 years.