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Special Taxing Districts Parade Through Kenton Fiscal Court

More than eighteen months after Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen released his report, detailing what he called a $2.7 billion "ghost government" in Kentucky, one of the effects of the subsequent legislation was on display at the Kenton County Building on Tuesday night.

With one of the complaints about "ghost governments", or special taxing districts, being that they have taxing authority without much publicity or public knowledge, state law now requires each county's districts to present their budget and tax rate information to the Fiscal Court.

Judge-Executive Steve Arlinghaus instructed each district's head to present their budget to the Fiscal Court Clerk, and then announce last year's tax rate and this year's tax rate at the podium.

The Conservation District, Kenton County Co-Op Extension, Kenton County Library, Kenton County Fire District, Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau, Piner-Fiskburg Fire District, Kenton County Port Authority, Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Authority (Tri-ED), Planning & Development Services (PDS, formerly Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission, or NKAPC), Ryland Heights Fire Department, Sanitation District 1, and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) were all in the room.

"House Bill 1 seemed to miss the mark in getting us here," said Marc Hult of the Conservation District. That body is made up of seven elected officials and its budget is set by the Fiscal Court. County Attorney Garry Edmondson said that he would investigate whether the Conservation District should be subject to future parades.

Kenton County Treasurer Roy Cox who serves as treasurer of the Kenton Co-Op Extension said that entity's tax rate would remain the same, at .9 per $100 real estate value and one cent per $100 of personal property.

Dave Schroeder of the Kenton County Library said the real estate tax will remain the same at 11.3 but the personal property percentage would drop from 20 to 19.71. There were no changes to the fire districts in Kenton County or Piner-Fiskburg but Ryland Heights raised its rate from .186 to .191.

Sanitation District 1 raised its rate 5% (while it serves three counties, SD1 presents in Kenton County where its offices are located, a rule that also applied to Tri-ED and the Visitors Bureau). The Convention & Visitors Bureau collects revenue from all three county governments directly while Tri-Ed, whose president, Dan Tobergte, also represented the Port Authority as secretary-treasurer, pointed out that his economic development group collects revenue based on the amount of funds collected by the counties through rental car fees in the region.

The Port Authority has no tax rate and Edmondson that it, too, could possibly avoid future parades.

Andrew Aiello, general manager of TANK, said that his organization doesn't tax and that its fares are unchanged from last year: $1.50 for local service, $2 for express, and $2.50 for ramp service.

"What's the cost on that new cross county one," County Commissioner Jon Draud asked. Aiello said that it was an express route, so $2. "I was thinking about taking a ride on that one day since I live such a boring life."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: NKCVB chief Eric Summe presents to the Kenton Co. Fiscal Court on Tuesday/RCN