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State Auditor Adam Edelen is pledging to shed much-needed light on special taxing districts throughout the state by the end of the year. His goal — create the first-ever database and inventory of all special taxing districts, which are estimated to be anywhere from 1,000 to 1,800 in numbers throughout the state. And even more staggering are the current spending estimates of those districts, which could range from $500 million to $1 billion of taxpayers’ money.
As Edelen tries to wrap his arms around the number of taxing districts in the state and their spending, we applaud his plan. We’re all for oversight, accountability and transparency when it comes to the spending of taxpayers’ money. So we support the efforts of Edelen as he tries to rein in special districts across the Commonwealth and hold them accountable.
While special taxing districts may levy taxes and fees on citizens, in most cases there is no oversight by an elected official. These districts, which are run by boards mostly made up of volunteers that can be appointed by county judge executives and mayors, include public libraries, airport boards, some fire departments, health and water districts, just to name a few. All in all there are more than 43 different types of special districts in the state.
These districts are supposed to report financial information to the Department of Local Government, but the problem is there are no penalties in place if they don’t provide the information and when they do provide the information it’s rarely posted for public viewing. Because of the lax accountability enforcement, most districts don’t report anything. This is unacceptable in today’s efforts to have true transparency with taxpayers’ money. Stricter legislation is needed for timely and accurate reporting with stiffer penalties for not doing so.
Edelen believes most special taxing districts in the state are operating in the “pitch dark,” with no oversight and accountability for tax payers’ money. To them we say, beware. This man is on a mission, and you’re about to see the light.
(Editor’s note: LaRue County has three special taxing districts – health department, library and Extension service.)
The Kentucky Standard Editorial Board