If you are feeling strong, search for candidates now | Editorials
In his budget speech to the Hardin Tax Court, Executive Judge Harry Berry highlighted several details of the $ 45.3 million plan.
He highlighted the money-saving efforts at the prison and landfill, which freed taxpayer money for other needs. He praised a decision that revived the revenues of the 911 center, which could no longer depend on revenues from a tax on landlines.
“It’s a structurally balanced budget,” Berry said, “which means current spending is really balanced with current income. No program or service is reduced. “
There were even a few proposed increases like an additional half a million in the highway fund, a 2 percent salary increase for county government employees and around $ 400,000 to repair the roof of the public library.
The library remains a sore point in the budget for many.
Hardin County is one of only 14 counties in Kentucky to fund library services from its general budget. In fact, it took a court decision to fix the formula locally.
Most counties operate with a dedicated library tax district. Although it is managed by an independent board and not by a county government department, more than $ 900,000 per year is taken from the general fund for library operations.
In recent years, Berry has joined with library leaders in advocating for a library tax similar to the levies in place that support the Cooperative Extension Service and the Department of Health.
The Tax Court ruled out the idea in October 2015 and again when it was reviewed in November 2018, as the increase in state pension obligations created a new urgency. Although it received committee support, the 2018 proposal was not considered by the public when the Tax Court found itself at a standstill.
“The library is suffocating,” Berry said in 2018. “They don’t have enough funds to keep pace.”
He reminded magistrates of the library’s financial concerns in his budget speech.
“Our library continues to be one of the smallest and least funded per capita in Kentucky,” Berry said. “And although my proposal includes an additional expense of $ 400,000 to help with a library roof rehabilitation project; other postponed building maintenance and repair issues continue to preoccupy the library. “
That doesn’t even address the obvious reduction in services and convenience when the library board closed its north branch last year. The county government-owned Radcliff building remains vacant.
The library and its funding will likely receive little attention when the Tax Court examines this budget next Tuesday and takes a final vote after a second reading two weeks later. There is little point in fighting this fight again.
But supporters of the library and supporters of proper funding must be at work now. A local election is looming in 2022 and all nine positions in Hardin’s tax court will be on the ballot.
It is likely that more than half of the outgoing magistrates will join Judge Berry and step down.
Supporters of change should seek candidates now. It’s time to identify and nurture potential office holders. It is time for like-minded people to commit to supporting future magistrates and preparing them to succeed with the electoral public.
Don’t wait until the filing deadline has passed in January to review the position of applicants who express their interest. It’s too late.
Is the base working now. If a library tax district is ever to be created in Hardin County, the next few months are crucial.
Of course, the same encouragement applies to those who oppose another property tax or the granting of taxing power to an unelected library board.
If this is your position – and you are convinced of it – identify potential candidates who share this point of view and encourage them to come to the polls.
If the library becomes a central issue in the 2022 county elections, it will be thanks to motivated people doing the hard work of political advocacy. If there is silence on the subject during the next May primary or the general election that followed, it is because no one really cared enough to work on it.
This editorial reflects a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.