Wednesday, March 16, 2016

House Bill Could Jeopardize Kansas Libraries

A bill in the Kansas legislature has some Kansas libraries worried. The bill written and introduced by the House Taxation Committee claims to empower the citizens of Kansas with a means to control the amount of property taxes levied against real and personal property by requiring any such taxes to be levied or approved by an elected body. The purpose behind this is to to remove taxing authority from library boards and regional systems. The bill would require a multi-county vote on a yearly basis to decide whether or not to fund the states seven regional library systems. Something the library supporters fear could end statewide resource sharing.
According to Laura Debaun, Executive Director of the Northeast Kansas Library System said that there was about 117 member libraries in the 14 county membership area. Of those libraries, the membership broke down to 48 public, 50 K-12 schools, 11academic (college/university) and 8 special libraries (medical, club, correctional facilities, etc).  Six of which, Debaun said, she was in real danger.  A number of libraries only have $20,000 in tax revenue. Those libraries, more then others depend on grants from the Northeast Kansas Library System. If the states various library systems cannot tax then those grants will dry up as well.
The bill would would require libraries, fire districts and any other special taxing district to have their budgets approved by the city or county they serve. Entities that tax areas outside the libraries taxing area would have that taxing ability stripped from them. For example, the Baldwin City Library taxes those inside the city limits. The Northeast Kansas Library System taxes the rural areas outside that taxing area and then provides grants to the local libraries used by those in the rural area. Thus making the library accessible to those areas as well.
In an open letter to the House Taxation Committee, Katie Morris of Holton, KS wrote,
I am writing today in opposition to HB 2719. I was shocked to read that the bill’s expressed goal is to “empower citizens of Kansas” with legislation that could threaten access to libraries and library materials. Libraries are a wonderful way to empower Kansans by helping enrich our lives, give access to information, and save us money.
Urging the committee to vote no on HB 2719.
Please don’t take away our access to the NExpress shared catalog and other shared systems around the state. Please don’t threaten the future of our libraries,
she said.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Baldwin City Gazette welcomes your comments, as long as they are on topic and remain respectful to others. Please no anonymous comments. Comments containing advertising will be marked as spam, this includes links.