By RONNIE ELLIS
There are 1,268 special taxing districts in Kentucky which amount to “a ghost government” that spends almost as much money annually than the state spends to educate its children.
That was the conclusion of Auditor of Public Accounts Adam Edelen when he released his report on the taxing districts Wednesday.
The review of the districts — Edelen defined them as “unelected entities that have the ability to tax or fee the public” — is the “most massive effort in the history of the auditor’s office,” Edelen said.
Taxing districts are established to fund and operate such public services as fire departments, libraries, conservation districts and a host of other quasi-government programs or services. They are required to submit their budgets to the local fiscal courts — but many don’t or at least haven’t until now.
“It is a scandal that for generations no Kentuckian has been able to determine how many special districts exist, how much money flows through them, where they are located and whether they are compliant with state law,” Edelen said.
In total, the districts spend around $2.71 billion without any real public accountability or oversight by elected officials. The districts take in $1 billion annually in tax revenues or fees assessed on the public. The rest of the expenditures are funded by grants and other funding sources.
“That’s billion with a ‘B,’” folks,” Edelen told reporters. The amount is nearly equal to the $2.73 billion the state spends to fund public schools and more than double what Kentucky spends on its road fund and Medicaid.
Edelen was careful to say that many of the districts comply with all the regulations and legal requirements. He specifically mentioned libraries, many of which were established by voter referenda, some more than 50 years ago.
See the full story in the print or E-edition of Thursday's Glasgow Daily Times.