Editor's Note: Judge Larry Elkins is in an ongoing dispute with the Calloway County Library Board over plans to build on their facilities. To make a long story short, Elkins doesn't think the Board can afford the project. Below is his most recent email on the issue. Reprinted with the Judge's permission.
(Murray KY - December 15, 2016) Indications are the Calloway County Library Board is moving full speed ahead with a multi-million dollar building project. The last numbers I heard were between 6 and 7 million. This apparently does not include furniture. A recent library board balance sheet showed the library has about 3.5 million dollars of our tax money in the bank. Indications are the board plans to borrow even more money creating decades of debt.
Since this issue became public, I have been asked several questions. Can the library board, without any sort of approval, raise and collect taxes? How do interested individuals wishing to be on the board get appointed? And who are the current board members?
The answer to the question regarding raising taxes without approval, as unbelievable as it seems, is yes they absolutely can. The library is a "Special Taxing District". Kentucky law grants that authority and you or your elected officials have NO control over their decisions. To substantiate that comment, I am including/attaching a document titled "August Trustee Tips". This document is meant to assist library boards and is provided by the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives. This is the same state agency that authored the Library Standards the local board often refers to for justifying their project size. This is also the agency that calculates their compensating tax rates. The last sentence on the page confirms "the Fiscal Court cannot vote to alter or veto the rate adopted".
I am also including a second document which is an email from the local librarian advising the trustees the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives is prepared to help the library hire "legal" counsel to fight any effort to reduce taxes. This message was sent and delivered in June of this year. Whether the State's lawyers are providing legal counsel is uncertain at this time. I would like to thank Trustee Rick Lamkin for providing my office with information relevant to Library Board activities.
If you are interested in this issue, review these documents. These documents are library documents not mine. Make of them what you will.
The answer to the question regarding being appointed to the library board is found in KRS 173.490. I have included/attached a copy of this law to the message. The Library Board consists of five members. Each member serves a four year term and are limited to two terms. In some years there are two members appointed and others only one. It is my understanding the local board uses the following process to comply with the law. I am sure the library will correct me if I have some of the steps out of order.
- The current board takes applications for each board opening.
- The library staff reviews and ranks the applicants.
- The sitting board goes into an Executive/closed meeting and chooses two candidates for each open position and if there is more than one opening, pairs the candidates in groups of two.
- The Library Board reenters the regular meeting and approves the decisions made in the closed session.
- The library sends the two nominees for each position to the State Librarian at the Department of Libraries and Archives.
- The State Librarian sends the Judge Executive a letter with the two names selected from which he or she must choose. I have included the two most recent letters received by my office.
The current law has created an incestuous process that allows a sitting board to effectively clone itself.
The Library Board is made up of members that aren't elected, requiring you to pay taxes that were never approved by the voters and restricts the authority of your elected officials. This process should concern everyone regardless of your position.
The current Library Board members are:
Ryan Alessi (who is now a resident of Virginia)
After Judge Elkins sent us a Youtube to "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" segment on "Special Districts." Click on "More"
Warning - John Oliver likes to use four letter words to make his points. Make the kiddies leave the room when you watch it.