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Last week’s News-Democrat included an editorial reprinted from the Lexington Herald Leader. State Auditor Adam Edelen has announced plans to compile an online database that will provide a way for the public to compare tax or fee rates and spending practices of local taxing districts with similar districts around the state.
In describing the special districts, the Lexington newspaper states that “Kentucky has 43 different kinds of special districts collecting taxes to provide a variety of public services.” From reading this editorial, one might infer that little accountability is required of these districts, and that indeed, these “little fiefdoms operated with minimal accountability and even less transparency—all on the public’s dime” are in need of serious scrutiny and oversight.
While I cannot speak to any other of Carroll County’s special districts, I can speak from more than 26 years experience as the Director of the Carroll County Public Library. Your library was established as a special taxing district in 1973 as a result of a county wide vote. During my time as director (1982-2008), all invoices were submitted to a professional bookkeeper who also wrote payroll checks. The elected treasurer of the volunteer Board of Trustees signed all checks, and believe me, they were always looked at carefully.
A monthly financial statement, prepared by the bookkeeper, was and still is presented to the Board of Trustees. Every public library must prepare an annual report detailing all income and expenditures. This report is submitted to the Kentucky Library and Archives in Frankfort and a copy is given to the fiscal court and county clerk. A Uniform Financial Information Report must also be prepared and submitted annually to the Department of Local Government in Frankfort.
Every four years, the public library is required by statute to hire an outside accounting firm to conduct a thorough audit of income and expenditures and again, these audits are passed through the proper channels.
The money collected through the special tax in Carroll County has gone for much more than to operate a nice building with thousands of books, CDs, DVDs, and audio books. The public library has become a cultural center for the community, providing GED instruction, outstanding programming for all ages, and a preschool learning opportunity for young children, high speed computers available for everyone, a repository of local history, instruction on everything from quilting to Zumba and buying on eBay. And yes, a place where a group of women (generally of a certain age!) gather to exercise each morning! This list doesn’t even begin to cover all that is available.
I often compiled, and I think Hillary has continued, a sheet comparing the cost of all the services used by our community with the actual tax revenue, and always the value was quite lopsided in favor of the advantages to the folks using the library.
So, citizens of Carroll County, rest assured that the public library here is not operated as a “little fiefdom.” Over the years dozens of dedicated citizens have donated countless hours serving on the Board of Trustees and I can promise you they have taken the responsibility seriously, and we all, staff and board, have been held accountable.
On another subject. one of the most popular programs presented at the library during my years there was the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood, a group of a Capella singers from the Covington area. I first heard them at the Kentucky Crafted Show held annually at the Fairgrounds and knew that they would be a big hit here. Since they first appeared at our old library, they have been invited to sing all over the United States and in several countries abroad.
This Saturday evening the Brotherhood will entertain us as part of the Backyard Concert Series, at the Butler-Turpin House in General Butler State Resort Park. Blending a program of traditional folk music with the gospel hymns for which they are best known, the group promises ninety minutes of wonderful music, beginning at 7 p.m.
If you are afraid or made nervous by the hill to climb, don’t worry. Golf carts will be available to take those of us who get a bit breathless to the top. Chairs are also furnished.
See you there.
Jarrett Boyd resides in Carrollton and is the retired director of the Carroll County Public Library.