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Confusion over library taxes continues

St. Paris librarian’s retirement based on pension changes, not tax issues.

Hundreds of residents have been paying taxes to two separate libraries in Champaign County, and for some, that may continue for several years despite a state law designed to end the practice.

Earlier this month, the State Library Board set new taxing boundaries for the St. Paris Public Library and the Champaign County Public Library, after it was discovered their taxing districts overlapped and many residents were paying taxes for both entities. State legislators approved a law last year that sought to eliminate the handful of cases in Ohio in which residents paid for two separate library levies.

However, in a letter to the Champaign County auditor, an attorney representing the St. Paris library pointed out that despite the changes, a St. Paris library levy that was approved by voters in 2012 will continue to be in effect until 2017. Those taxes are paid one year behind, according to information from the Ohio Department of Taxation, meaning some residents will continue paying taxes for both libraries until 2018. Areas affected could include portions of Harrison, Concord and Mad River Twps.

At the time the St. Paris levy was approved, it covered an area that included the entire Graham School District. The new state law will require the St. Paris library to only tax residents within its new boundaries, set by the State Library Board. But because the levy was approved before the new law, the St. Paris library can continue to tax the entire Graham School district until the levy expires.

Jonathan Murphy, a Columbus attorney representing the St. Paris Library board, sent a letter explaining the situation to Champaign County Auditor Karen Bailey on Sept. 18.

“It’s because we have this change in the law, but it doesn’t impact this levy that’s already on the books,” Murphy said.

Unlike St. Paris, the Champaign County Public Library’s new boundaries will take effect next year, Murphy said.

The situation is complicated, but Rebecca Luck, an attorney for the Ohio Department of Taxation, confirmed Murphy’s assessment of the rules.

“The law was intended to be written this way,” Luck said. “It took a little while to drill down into the law to determine what it said.”

Staff from the Champaign County Public Library are still reviewing the situation, said director Ty Henderson. The Champaign County library had anticipated some lost revenue due to the new boundaries, and reduced its spending on new materials to help make up the difference.

“It’s one of those uncertainties we’ve been living with since they made that law,” Henderson said.

In the midst of the dispute, Nancy McAlpin, director of the St. Paris Public Library, announced she will retire at the end of this month. The decision was based on changes to the state pension system and is not related to the dispute between the two libraries.

McAlpin’s career began in 1971 at the Louisville Free Public Library, and she began working in St. Paris in July 2002. A native of Waverly, Ohio, she said she was particularly proud of adding to the library’s selection of classic novels, and focusing the library’s materials based on the preferences of the village’s residents. Often, that included inspirational fiction and westerns.

“It’s a wonderful community,” McAlpin said. “I’ve been really happy here.”

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