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County leaders expressed concern about a new state law that takes effect in 2014 requiring special districts in the county to present their budgets to Carroll County Fiscal Court each year.
Magistrates and Judge-Executive Harold “Shorty” Tomlinson agreed that the new law will make it appear that fiscal court has oversight over the eight special districts in Carroll County. However, all the districts have to do is present their budgets, not get them approved.
Tomlinson said the new law requires that after Jan. 1, 2014, special districts must present their budgets and tell if there is any kind of increase in their tax rate.
County Attorney Nick Marsh said Tomlinson “hit it right on target” as to the purpose of the law. He said the goal is transparency of the special taxing districts.
But magistrates expressed concern that this presentation of the budget might look as if they have oversight of the special districts.
District 2 Magistrate Dean Miller said some may say they presented it to fiscal court and “they said OK.”
District 3 Magistrate Mark Bates said it will allow the budgets and tax levies to be presented in “one central place.”
Referred to as House Bill 1, the law grew out of an initiative by Kentucky Treasurer Adam Edelen to have more transparency with the special districts across the state.
The new law requires “all new fees or ad valorem taxes, all increase in fees or taxes other than ad valorem taxes, and all ad valorem tax rates to be reported to the governing body of the city or county where the largest number of citizens served by a special purpose government entity resides.”
The law states that the report must be made both in writing and “through public testimony at an open meeting of the governing body.”
Tomlinson said the statute requires these presentations be made 10 minutes prior to regular meetings of the fiscal court.
In Carroll County, there are eight special districts that show up on the list of affected bodies, according to Edelen’s citizenauditor.ky.gov website. They are the Carroll County conservation, extension, health and library districts, Carroll County Tourism and Convention Commission, Carroll County Water District No. 1, Ghent Fire Protection District and West Carroll Water District.
Training on the new procedures will be handled in this region by the Northern Kentucky Area Development District. Reports presented by the taxing districts will go to the state’s Department on Local Government.
Officials with several of the local special districts do not believe it will mean many changes from the procedures they now follow.
Carroll County Public Library Director Hillary Arney said she believes the new law is a “good thing” because transparency with tax dollars is good.
Arney said that Edelen has said that libraries have been themodel of what others in the state should be doing by “operating under a good guideline of transparency in the first place.”
Overall, she said it will not have a big impact on the library. They will have to register with DLG and adopt the fiscal court’s ethics policy by Dec. 31. Then next year, prior to the start of their fiscal year in July, the library will have to present its budget to fiscal court.
She said the one concern that everyone has is the logistics of making the presentations. “We are not exactly sure how that’s going to work,” she said, particularly if all of them show up at the same time.
Carrollton/Carroll County Tourism Director Rhonda Riley said tourism won’t see much of a change under the new law. Each year, she said, tourism has always presented its budget to both fiscal court and Carrollton City Council.
Riley noted that both Tomlinson and Mayor Gene McMurry serve on the tourism board. She said she also attends a monthly city council meeting to keep them informed of what’s happening.
“I’ve always done my best to make sure we are in compliance,” Riley said. Additionally, she said she has always worked to stay on top of the reporting the tourism commission makes to DLG and the state.
“For the most part, it’s not going to change a lot,” she said.
Ghent Fire Protection District chief Pat Stewart said he was not aware of the new law that passed this year. Stewart said he leaves these types of reporting issues to the fire district’s auditors, Raisor, Zapp and Woods, and its attorney, Jim Crawford.
“They keep us in check,” he said.
Steward said he knows that GFPD does send a copy of its annual audit to fiscal court each year so they have that information.
He referred questions over to their auditor Jeff Woods.
Jeff Woods with Raisor, Zapp and Woods said he knows the GFPD audit was sent to Edelen’s office. He believes that there was probably confusion between his office, Crawford and the fire district that simply sending the audit for GFPD would be reporting for Edelen’s special district project.
As an auditor, Woods said he didn’t have any requests to help any of the entities they audit each year with the forms for the special taxing district project. He said they usually just handle the auditing, and that’s all they do.
GFPD will always have to undergo an audit because its receipts exceed the $100,000 requirement set by the state.
Tomlinson said the county’s fourth and sixth class cities do not have to report their budgets, but it will probably include the county’s volunteer fire departments.
The fire departments, even though they are not taxing districts, will need to send their budgets to fiscal court, something that many of them do not do now.
“They are going to have to respond back to us,” Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson said this would allow fiscal court to look at the financial situation of the fire departments that they contribute money to each year.
He said it will raise the question of why the county is providing $25,000 a year if a department has something like $150,000 in certificates of deposit.
“I’m not saying we are not funding anybody or anything like that,” Tomlinson said. However, he said fiscal court does have a responsibility to see how the money is used and ensure that it is not just being put back into savings.
“We need to take a look at it,” he said.
The timing of the presentations, which have to be made in the 10 minutes prior to regular meetings, prompted some concern at the meeting.
Tomlinson said there are eight to 10 that will have to make their presentations in this short amount of time during the fiscal court’s two meetings a month.
There was some discussion of limiting them to three to five minutes so that all the districts could make their presentations. But they agreed to wait to learn more as the guidelines for the new process are developed.
Jobs expo set May 23
Camp Kysoc will host a jobs expo from 3:30-6 p.m. on May 23. Tomlinson said work is now underway to have industry participation with the One Stop jobs center to accept applications and to apply for available jobs online.
More details on the event with be published as details on the event are worked out.
Internship program to return this summer
Carroll County Fiscal Court will again participate in the state’s internship program for those age 17-21 with a high school diploma or GED. The program does require that participants be income eligible and unemployed. The pay is $9 per hour for 12 weeks.
Tomlinson said the county hopes to have about six workers who can assist at the parks. He noted that Carrollton Utilities and Carroll County Memorial Hospital have also made use of the interns in past years.