FRANKFORT — A bill making its way through the Kentucky legislature aimed at increasing transparency and accountability of the state’s special taxing districts won approval in the Senate on Wednesday.
House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would require “special purpose government entities” in the state to submit administrative and financial information to the Department of Local Government. That information would then be posted in an online registry and available to the public.
The legislation comes on the heels of two recent audits performed by the Kentucky State Auditor’s office following allegations of misappropriated funds. Garrett Volunteer Fire Department was scrutinized in an audit report which noted more than $123,000 in questionable spending. Allen Volunteer Fire Department was also audited following several questionable contractors bills were made public.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, asserted that the bill was designed to insure that the more than 1,300 special taxing districts in the state, which raise and spend approximately $4 billion in public money annually, are given some oversight.
The entities covered under HB1 include public library boards and fire and water districts, among others, and are found in more than 117 Kentucky counties.
The Senate added an amendment to the bill which would also give fiscal courts the power to veto certain tax increases proposed by special districts. The amendment would also make the results of audits of districts covered under the legislation available for public review on the online registry, Thayer said.
The measure was passed on a 23-10 vote. Opponents of the bill cited concerns about allowing fiscal courts veto power over the taxing districts.
House Bill 1 will now go back to the House of Representatives for consideration of the amendment added by the Senate.