Under state law, a unified government would not affect school districts, existing taxing districts in the county, or local option areas. It would not alter boundaries of precincts and legislative districts. Unified government, if approved by voters, would vacate current political positions and establish a new governing structure.
A new Somerset-Pulaski County unified government would create Kentucky’s third largest city with a population of 63,700. It would be the first unified government of its kind in Kentucky. Metro governments in Louisville and Lexington were created under different statutes, although in principle the way they operate would be similar to a merged government here, according to Schmidt.
SPCU members believe that a government here passing the 50,000 population threshold would get “looks” from businesses and industries interested in locating in larger communities. They believe it would enhance the community’s economic development efforts and assist in creating new jobs.
“A unified government would greatly increase the county’s bonding capacity,” Schmidt said, noting that the City of Somerset is approaching its bonding limits.
Somerset, with its current population of 11,296, is the 33rd largest city in Kentucky. Unified, with a population of more than 63,000, Somerset, now a third-class city, would be the third largest city in the state, qualifying for 2nd-class status.
Ping pointed out that unification, if approved by voters, is a slow-moving procedure. He estimated it would take at least four years.
“Speaking with one voice will make it easier to provide for the community’s needs,” assured State Senator Chris Girdler, who spoke in favor of the study.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us to stop and do three things: (1) Examine how our current local government jurisdictions work by identifying strengths and weaknesses; (2) find out how unified governments have worked in other communities around the country; and (3) consider whether unified government might work for us.”