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Library votes to request reduction in tax funds

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GREENFIELD — A decision by the Hancock County Public Library has paved the way for either lower taxes in 2013 or more money for underfunded county projects, such as roads.

The library board voted Tuesday night to request a one-year reduction in the county’s economic development income tax, from 0.15 percent to 0.10 percent. The board made the decision after the undistributed portion of EDIT money held by the county for use by both of the county’s public library systems grew to nearly $3 million.

“We thought it would be appropriate and financially prudent to request a one-year decrease in (the tax),” said board member Harlan Smith.

The board’s resolution will now be taken to the Hancock County Council for discussion and a vote. The council can either choose to lower the tax draw for 2013 to 0.10 percent or set the EDIT tax to another level and use the difference for other projects.

County council President Bill Bolander said the council had not discussed any changes to the EDIT, but keeping the rate the same or raising it “could be a possibility.”

“It’s open for discussion,” Bolander said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what the consensus is.”

When the library requested an EDIT reduction in 2010, the county lowered the library’s EDIT draw from 0.15 to 0.10, but raised the EDIT to 0.20 percent. The portion not used by the library was put into a separate fund for use on county economic development projects.

County attorney Ray Richardson said EDIT money can be added to the county’s general fund and used for any purpose.

If the council decides to maintain or raise the EDIT, some of that money could go toward paving and road projects. Bolander said the county needs road money, so it is a possibility.

Whatever the council decides, it will need to be passed in the form of an ordinance before Nov. 1.

The library will likely request a return to the 0.15 percent rate for 2014. Keeping the rate at 0.10 for much longer would reduce the fund held by the county too much. If there was ever a gap in what EDIT funds could cover and the amount owed to the library, it would be filled by property taxes – something the board members made clear they would not want to happen.

Unlike other public libraries in the state, Hancock County’s two public library systems have not been funded by property taxes since 2000, when the switch was made to EDIT funds, allowing for county-wide library service.

“There is quite a bit there (now),” Smith said, “but we don’t want to get too close to zero because we don’t want to get into property taxes.”

Library Director Dianne Osborne will present the board resolution to the county council Sept. 6.

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