Library advocates raise voices over proposed property tax changes

Library advocates crowd a House tax committee hearing Monday, March 14, 2016. (Courtesy: Rose Diehl)

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Representatives from libraries across the state say they will not be silenced over a bill they say could force dozens of libraries to close.

People packed a House tax committee hearing Monday on a bill that changes how taxing entities, such as libraries, fire districts, recreation boards or airport authorities, can levy property taxes or issue bonds. It would require approval of an elected governing body or voters.

Supporters say the bill is meant to empower citizens to control the amount of property tax they pay.

However, advocates for rural libraries say it would dismantle their funding system. Representatives of the state's regional library system say, without grants and professional services which exist through their current funding mechanisms, 48 communities would lose their libraries and 58 more would be at risk.

Washburn University and the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library also testified that the changes outlined in the bill would impact their services.

A fiscal note attached to the bill says it would not impact the state's general fund, but would potentially increase costs for the taxing entities it affects. The note also states the bill could increase costs if elections are conducted to approve property tax levies or bonds.

The tax committee did not take any action on the bill Monday.