Annexations are vital to the growth and success of Kentucky and often result in a financial boom for the city and county. That was the message on Friday when city officials joined some county representatives to testify before the Task Force on Local Government Annexation. Seven different city officials talked about how beneficial annexations have been for their entire region and reiterated that nearly all were done at the request of property owners.
Elizabethtown Mayor Jeff Gregory, City Administrator Ed Poppe, and City Attorney Ken Howard spoke about that community’s recent growth and the new BlueOval SK plant in Hardin County. Mayor Gregory said it is expected to result in a major population boom for Elizabethtown.
Developers are building neighborhoods and asking the city to annex the property so they can receive municipal sanitation. Mayor Gregory pointed out that the new homes will significantly increase county property tax collection. “We all gain revenue,” Howard added.
The need for more revenue was the main focus of county officials, with Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken noting that citizens might have to “pay just a little bit more.” She acknowledged the recent pattern in Kentucky of people living and moving to cities. “I understand why many people want to live in the city,” Milliken said. “They want the added amenities. They want the extra services.”
She stressed that counties were not against annexations. She said the request is for a change in the state’s annexation law. Representative Michael Meredith (R-Oakland) warned the result would be “a large tax increase.”
He and several city officials testifying on Friday remarked on the reality that cities and counties across the state are different and a one-size-fits-all state law could do more damage than good. Shelbyville Mayor Troy Ethington discussed his city’s interlocal agreement with Shelby County.
He noted that city annexations save the county operational expenses, such as police, fire, water, and sanitation, and provide improved infrastructure. They also spur economic growth and increase property values. “At the end of the day, everyone wins,” Ethington remarked.
“Cities are the engines that drive the Kentucky economy,” Berea Mayor Bruce Fraley stated. His city spent 22 years purchasing and annexing small parcels of land for a Berea Industrial Park expansion.
“Let’s be growth-oriented and growth-minded,” added Somerset Mayor Alan Keck.
He reminded members of the task force that city residents pay county taxes and commented that the issue highlights the need for revenue diversification for local governments. Representative Meredith agreed. “The issue is not really annexation,” he said. “The issue is the revenue.”
Representative Randy Bridges (R-Paducah) commented that annexations only seem to be an issue in areas where city and county officials can’t agree. Keck responded that such a relationship can’t be fostered through legislation. “You are not going to force them to,” he stated.
The task force will meet again on Sept. 29.