The Kentucky House of Representatives took a big step on Friday toward shoring up accountability for special taxing districts in the state, which have recently come under fire both around the state and in Pulaski County.
The individual entities which are able to impose taxes to fund their own causes were found to often be lacking in oversight in a review conducted by State Auditor Adam Edelen last year. This led to the Kentucky General Assembly putting a focus on reigning in some of these taxing districts, which spend approximately $2.7 billion a year to operate things like fire departments airports, tourism boards, health departments, and more.
Pulaski County has nine special taxing districts of its own, one of which made headlines late last year when it drew the ire of a group of petitioners. The Pulaski County Public Library found itself in a precarious position when accepting the compensating tax rate amounted to an increase approved by unelected library board members. That spurred a petition to dissolve that taxing district in hopes of putting the library funding under the accountability of the Pulaski County Fiscal Court.
The problem was that according to state law, dissolving the taxing district for a library in debt would force the library to close its doors — and moreover, the tax would continue in order to pay off what’s owed.
Pulaski County Representative Tommy Turner voiced his support for additional accountability efforts, as was the idea behind the House’s vote Friday.
“I think they need oversight,” said Turner of special taxing districts. “I think any agency that receives taxpayer dollars needs to be accountable and have oversight.”
Part of the problem Edelen found was district that have not kept up with their legally required audits. The Pulaski County Public Library’s board had, as reported last year during the petition drive, but several others had not, as reported earlier this week by the Commonwealth Journal. Those that hadn’t submitted audits to the state included the Pulaski County Airport Board, Ambulance District, and Western Pulaski Water District.