FRANKFORT – City and county officials showed up in force as the Kentucky Association of Counties offered their view of annexation in Kentucky.
In a presentation to members of the Task Force on Local Government Annexations titled: “Growing cities are a growing concern for counties, and that’s a problem for all Kentuckians,” Jim Henderson, the Executive Director KACo, said there are three focus areas for Kentucky’s counties regarding changes to annexations.
Henderson told lawmakers KACo’s members would like to see a level playing field, “a stronger emphasis on stronger interlocal agreements,” and the process of annexation as “more thoughtful, deliberate, and plain.”
Hampton nodded towards previous comments from Rep. Michael Meredith about the annexation issue not being about annexation problems, but rather about revenue problems.
“Regardless of how we describe it, annexation would not nearly be the problem it is for counties if it wasn’t a revenue grab from a county budget,” she said. “This ongoing issue being exacerbated in some of our counties is a primary reason why we’re having this discussion today. If left in place, these laws that pit the budgets of counties against the budgets of cities will continue to lead to conflict.”
Among the items that fall under the broad categories, Henderson and KACo Director of Government Affairs Shellie Hampton told lawmakers interlocal agreements should be used when “revenues are at risk,” and that the “shapes,” of cities show annexations are “out of control,” with shoestring and corridor annexations.
Rep. Meredith cautioned that geography and perspective play a role in a rush to judgment of what could be viewed as shoestring or corridor annexations.
“I’m going into my district right now – looking at Edmonson County and we appear to have a corridor annexation when you look at the city of Brownsville within Edmonson County because there’s a portion when you look at that that’s very narrow and it looks like two different cities tied by a very narrow pathway,” Meredith said. “But, if you know anything about the geography of Edmonson County, there’s only one way across the county and it’s a bridge that crosses the Green River.”
Henderson also said in some cases it does make sense to annex as many citizens want city services.
“In some cases, it actually makes economic sense to sign up to get into the city because the net effect is less for a period of time because the county taxes are no longer able to be collected,” KACo Executive Director Henderson said.
Quoting former President Ronald Reagan, Henderson said he was not trying to imply there is a cold war between cities and counties by utilizing the president’s phrases – “trust but verify,” and peace through strength.”
Henderson said in negotiations with cities they want to get to a place “where we’re not at odds – no one can negotiate from a place of weakness,” he said.
The next Task Force meeting will be held on Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. when the Kentucky League of Cities will testify.