Auditor eyes special district spending

By Kayleigh Zyskowski Published:

The state auditor today announced a statewide sweep of all special districts – including those in Franklin County that levy taxes – to increase accountability of how the funds are used in each district.

Auditor Adam Edelen says the residents of Franklin County and the state  will have a clearer picture of how many special districts there are statewide – levying between $500 million and $1.5 billion in taxes and fees annually – and how they spend their money. The findings will be made into an electronic database by the end of the year.

“There is no central authority in the state to track the number of special districts or how much they collect and spend in taxes and fees,” according to a press release from Edelen’s office.

“It is estimated that there are between 1,300 and 1,800 – all of which are governed by hundreds of different statutes and local ordinances.”

Franklin County has seven districts overall that levy taxes: the county conservation district, cooperative extension, the health department, Paul Sawyier Public Library and state, county and school property taxes, according to Sheriff Pat Melton. 

“I support the important work that special districts such as libraries, fire departments and water and sewer boards do, but if you have ability to take from taxpayers you have to be accountable to them,” Edelen said in the press release.

The judge-executive, sheriff and clerk in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties will receive a survey to report their local records, Edelen says. The results will be compiled to be cross-referenced with the existing – but incomplete – Department for Local Government records. If there are any holes, Edelen told The State Journal Tuesday, he plans to obtain the necessary information by requests from the individual special districts or by subpoena.

The database should be complete by the end of the year – allowing the information to become available to the public, according to the release. Edelen hopes to use the information he finds to introduce state legislation in the 2013 General Assembly to increase the oversight of special districts.

Edelen said recent special examinations into such special districts as the Metropolitan Sewer District in Louisville, Sanitation District No. 1 of Northern Kentucky, Blue Grass Airport in Lexington and Mountain Water District in Pikeville showed the need for accountability, according to the press release. 

“It’s a huge undertaking and I don’t think this has been done in Kentucky at anytime,” Edelen added.

 

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