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800 percent increase?

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Awaiting ruling from AG, levee commission votes to send maintenance fee bills by Dec. 1 deadline

By Shannon Brock

The Spencer County Levee Flood Control and Drainage District No. 1 spent a large portion of Thursday night’s special meeting on the agenda item “discuss taxing on maintenance fee” and decided to move forward with sending out bills that would raise the amount collected by approximately 800 percent.

Although the commission may have options to borrow funding to reaccredit the levee, it must first increase its own funds and have a method of repaying what is borrowed, Commissioner Mike Driscoll said.
That will most likely come through an increase in the maintenance fee, or tax, assessed on property owners within the levee district.
At its previous meeting on Oct. 10, the commission voted to levy a maintenance assessment of $49,818.61 to property owners within the levee district — that amount is approximately eight times the amount currently levied, $6,200. That number would be the total collected from the property owners combined.
In coming to that figure, Bobby Smith referenced Kentucky Revised Statute 268.470, which says “this assessment shall not in any one year exceed two percent of the original cost of construction, unless consent is first obtained in writing from the owners of two-thirds of the property affected.”
Because the levee was built in 1948 for a total cost of $513,359, Smith says the rate of inflation needs to be factored in. That would bring the cost of the levee to $4,981,861.63, and one percent of that amount is $49,818.61.
The commission agreed at the Oct. 10 meeting to seek a legal opinion from the attorney general’s office as to whether this was a legal way of levying the fee.
Somewhere under this agenda item, the discussion drifted to the possibility of dissolving the levee commission and leaving the county, the body that created the levee commission, to take up its maintenance.
Levee commissioners conversed back and forth with former levee commissioner Mike Woodford who said he saw that option as a possibility in a Kentucky Revised Statute. No specific statute was mentioned and none was found by The Spencer Magnet staff as of press time, which would allow for the commission to dissolve itself.
The subject of dissolution was not on the agenda for Thursday’s special meeting.
Discussing the tax billing process, however, was on the agenda, and commissioners voted to continue its billing for 2013 through city employee Shelia Hardin.
The commission is required by statute to issue its bills by Dec. 1 and with that deadline nearing, voted to move forward with the maintenance fee of $49,818.61, even though no official word has been heard from the attorney general on the legality of doing so.
Bills should be sent out within the next two weeks.

Getting an education on open meetings law
The levee commission spent the first part of Thursday’s meeting receiving a lesson on Kentucky’s Open Meetings Act.
After being found in violation of the state’s open meetings law by the attorney general’s office, the commission asked Assistant Attorney General Amye Bensenhaver to attend its meeting on Thursday and share information regarding the law and what the commission can do to keep from violating it again.
Earlier this month, the attorney general’s office issued a decision stating that the levee commission violated the law by having two special meetings without giving notice, posting an agenda or keeping minutes — one of those meetings took place in Frankfort to meet with state department and FEMA officials and the other took place in the form of an interview at The Spencer Magnet office.
The purpose of the second meeting was to share with the newspaper about the first meeting to get the word out to the public about the situation surrounding the levee and its reaccreditation.
In the open meetings decision, Assistant Attorney General James M. Herrick writes, “It appears that this noncompliance is chiefly the result of ignorance and that the district intends to make earnest efforts to comply with the act in the future.”
One of those efforts was to invite Bensenhaver to Thursday’s meeting to explain the commission’s duties under the Open Meetings Act.
Bensenhaver spent more than an hour discussing the act and answering questions of levee commissioners as well as those in the audience. She also handed out copies of a slideshow presentation detailing the commission’s duties and copies of “Your Duty Under the Law,” a publication of the attorney general’s office that is handed out to all elected officials.
In accordance with the Open Meetings Act, Bensenhaver advised the commission to set a regular meeting schedule.
Driscoll made a motion to have four meetings per year with the meetings on the third Wednesday of January, April, July and October. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Bobby Smith and passed unanimously, with Driscoll, Smith and Commissioner Joan Smith each voting yes.
No time was set for those meetings.