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Will we keep a library?

Grayson council decision could threaten library’s future

By: Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

 It isn’t just local funding that is suffering from the city of Grayson’s decision not to fund their share of the Carter County Public Library. The city’s decision could end up impacting state grant funding available to the library as well, threatening the future of the library. 

Chris Bischoff, a regional consultant for the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA), addressed Carter County Fiscal Court at their regular meeting earlier this month. Bischoff explained that a portion of the library’s funding comes from a state grant that was awarded for the purchase and upkeep of the Grayson branch location. He said he was “concern(ed) with the loss of funds from the city of Grayson,” because of grant money the library system receives from the state related to the purchase of that building. He explained that the grant requires the building be maintained for 20 years as a condition of the grant agreement. 

Terry Manuel, State Librarian with KDLA, explained that if the county library system fails to maintain the building for that period of time, they will have to pay back a portion of the $400,000 granted for the purchase and renovation of the building. With the library budget already being stretched thin, this could spell the death of the local library system. 

However when Olive Hill agreed to continue funding their portion of the library’s budget from local sources, they stipulated that if a branch had to be closed as a result of insufficient Grayson branch rather than the Olive Hill branch. Library board president Jeff Erwin agreed to the stipulation, noting that it was only fair that if Olive Hill continued to pay their share of library funding they get to keep their local branch open. 

Grayson mayor George Steele says he supports a library in Carter County, but he feels the county government should cover the entirety of funding. If fiscal court doesn’t agree to pay the entire amount of $75,000 from funds raised with the recently passed payroll tax, Steele said, he would support a county wide library tax. 

“Doing it right is passing a cheap library tax,” Steele told the Times in a recent sit-down. “I’d be tickled to pay my library tax.” 

Steele also characterized the $25,000 share that has come from each of the two cities in the past as “an unfair tax to put on Olive Hill too,” claiming that since citizens in both cities also pay county taxes they are being “taxed twice.” 

Steele has had conversations with Carter County Judge Executive Mike Malone about the county picking up the cities’ share of library funding, which would triple the amount fiscal court currently pays out for the library. Malone has said he would support the county taking over the entirety of funding for the library, but it ultimately is not a decision that can be made by Malone or the mayors of either city. Fiscal court magistrates are the ones who must approve any changes in county funding, and city council must approve or deny funding in each of the cities. Whether or not the county will vote to pick up the entirety of the tab, or put a library tax on the ballot, remains to be seen, but Malone has said if the county does choose to pick up the portion that Grayson City Council won’t fund it would be unfair not to pick up the same portion for Olive Hill. 

If Carter County loses their public library they would be the only county in the state of Kentucky without a public library system. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercoutytimes.com

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