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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Public Library Lawsuit Fact Sheet

By Pat LaFleur, 
FortThomasMatters City Beat

Last week, Campbell County Circuit Court judge Julie Reinhardt Ward ruled in favor of a plaintiff suing the Campbell County Public Library (CCPL) for illegally raising tax rates for the last 35 years.

In a week, the lawsuit has already gained lots of attention, prompting many to voice their support of or opposition to Judge Ward’s ruling. This should happen. How tax dollars are acquired and spent is something any community must discuss.

Charged with such political currents, however, cases like these can easily allow for politics to outweigh, obscure, or even obstruct the facts.

Here’s a list of factual details -- in bite-sized chunks -- surrounding the case, so that we all can maintain a discussion rooted in integrity and rational argument. As details unfold or clarify, this post may be updated:


• The class-action lawsuit was filed on January 19, 2012 by attorney Brandon Voelker, on behalf of Alexandria resident Charlie Coleman and Cold Spring residents John P. Roth and Erik Hermes.

• The defendant, Campbell County Public Library Board of Trustees, was represented by Jeff Mando of Covington.

• The plaintiff sued CCPL Board for violating Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 173.790, which states that any public library district created by a petition of voters (which CCPL was on 9/5/78) cannot raise or lower its tax rate without first petitioning 51% of voters who participated in the last election. Click here to see the law, in lawmakers’ words.

• CCPL -- along with nearly 80 other public library districts in KY -- have been raising tax rates without petition since 1978.

• As defense, CCPL cites itself as a “special tax district” falling into the jurisdiction of KRS 132. The defense argued that this is the legislation they followed when determining their procedure for raising property tax. KRS 132, a lengthy piece of legislation, is written to limit special tax districts’ ability to raise tax rates.

• CCPL has demonstrated consistency with KRS 132, most recently when it offered Northern Kentucky voters the decision whether or not to raise the tax rate to fund construction on the proposed South Branch in Alexandria.

• Judge Ward ruled in favor of the plaintiff, that KRS 132 does not exempt CCPL from following KRS 173.790 when adjusting its tax rates.

• Judge Ward has not yet issued a ruling on how the current tax rate should be adjusted. There is much speculation on this matter. Currently, CCPL collects 7.7 cents for every $100 in property value from Campbell Co. property owners. This equates to .077% of property value collected by CCPL.

• The plaintiff is calling for a full reversion back to the 1978 rate of 3 cents/$100 of property value. This would equate to .03% property value collected.

• If tax rates are reverted back to their 1978 level, that would equal over a 60% reduction in CCPL funding from its current total of $4.6 million annually to $1.9 million annually, according to NKY.com and WKRC-TV Local 12.

• CCPL Director J.C. Morgan was quoted to say that 1978 funding levels would mean a reduction from 70 weekly hours, a less-than-seven days per week schedule, an almost certain stoppage of book acquisition, and the closing of at least 1 branch.

• The plaintiff is also calling for a full reimbursement of all tax revenue collected since 1978. Judge Ward has not yet ruled on this either. At 1978 tax revenue levels, this would equate to almost $70 million, over the last 35 years. Annual tax revenue totals have been higher than that, however, in years since.

• According to NKY.com (see link above), CCPL currently receives 93% of its funding through tax revenue.

• On April 25, 2013, the Campbell County Circuit Court will hold a status hearing, so that Judge Ward may determine how to rule on these subsequent issues.

• Mr. Voelker also has similar suits pending in Kenton and Boone Counties. Kenton County Judge Patricia Summe heard the case in conjunction with Judge Ward.


These are facts.

This is a significant issue to the Ft. Thomas community, and Campbell County at large, and it deserves thorough investigation and review.

For more info, see these resources:


Campbell County Library Lawsuit Fact Sheet: http://www.cc-pl.org/lawsuit

Brandon Voelker (attorney for the plaintiff): http://www.thevoelkerfirm.com/news_1-19-2012.php

Jeff Mando (attorney for the defendant): http://www.aswdlaw.com/attorneys/jeffrey-c-mando/

8 comments:

  1. Some of those "facts" are the CCPL's talking points. You can't pass them all as stone cold lead pipe facts.

    If they were all true, this ruling would have zero merit. Yet, here we are...

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  2. The article is merely laying out what each party is claiming. It is a fact that CCPL claims to have been following KRS 132's governance.

    To point out CCPL's claim is not to endorse that claim as true or having "merit," in the same way that pointing out the plaintiff's claim is not an endorsement of such either.

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  3. Poor Kentucky. Cut off the head to cure the headache.... If there is one thing we need, it's a Library, score one for the perpetuation of ignorance in a state where ignorance is a way of life for some, especially those with no access to libraries... personally I have no issue with a library tax, but now I also have no hope of our elected officials doing the right thing to fix this and fund the CCPL...... I suppose this "plaintiff" has the expendable income to hire an attorney to file this suit, but can't pay for a library...sad....

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment is so passive aggressive. THERE ARE 3 LIBRARIES IN OUR COUNTY ALONE!

    You act like if they don't get more money they'll crumble. Maybe they will get the money they need from those who use it which, GASP, are not as many people as you elitists think.

    ReplyDelete
  5. GASP!

    For the fiscal 2011/2012 year...
    *1,027,137 items were circulated
    *There were 629,757 library visitors
    *41,739 people attended programs
    *896 people booked public meeting room space (including, GASP, the tea party members currently suing the library for misuse of their tax dollars!)

    GASP GASP GASP! Not as many people as you elitists think? THINK AGAIN! Sounds like some people around these comments could use some time at their local library to do quality research...

    http://www.cc-pl.org/sites/www.cc-pl.org/files/Campbell%20County%20Public%20Library--Report%20to%20the%20Community--2012_0.pdf





    ReplyDelete
  6. The only elitist comments I've been reading are people saying that no one uses the library -- how about people with no computer, no access to funds to buy books, movies, comic books, and more for their kids? How about veterans that come to the library to use the computers they cannot afford? How about the outreach services given to the elderly or otherwise stuck-at-home?

    These people don't matter to you, because you can't see the big picture with your head up your arse.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Anonymous above: "You act like if they don't get more money they'll crumble."

    When discussing this case, it's important to realize that getting more money is not what's at stake. Now that the court has ruled CCPL's tax rate procedure to be illegitimate, what's at stake is what CCPL owes Campbell Co.

    What might make the CCPL crumble is having to repay even some of the tax revenue they collected (certainly over $100 million over the last 35 yrs, even with a conservative estimate).

    With a current annual budget of $4.9 million (which, remember, will almost certainly be slashed), CCPL could very likely go bankrupt, even with a forgiving repayment schedule, paying back just some of that money.

    Judge Ward has yet to rule on this, though.

    Not looking at the facts of this case is what makes it easy to think that this case is simply about the larger debate over library funding.

    This case is more immediate and more urgent. We need to watch it because it will determine the health and life-expectancy of Campbell County's library system AT LARGE.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Since the Plaintiffs in the case have successfully prevented the building of a new branch, and now have successfully challenged the current library tax, and are now petitioning for a tax refund, could they also find a way to do away with the other useless taxpayer subsidized services in the county as a whole? For example, why do we need all these parks? I don't use them. I don't drive, so why plow my street when it snows? Besides snow melts for free with a willing sun. Duh? And thank God the Zoo and Union Terminal are across the river, otherwise we'd be stuck paying for them as well. Bunch of useless institutions just like public schools and libraries -- one of which I never attended; the other I've never been in.

    ReplyDelete