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Levee commissioner says few have complained despite hefty fee hike

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By Shannon Brock

The Spencer County Levee Flood Control and Drainage District No. 1 has received surprisingly few complaints since sending out its maintenance fee bills last week, said Levee Commissioner Bobby Smith.

“It’s going pretty good,” Smith said. “Nobody has been so mad yet.”
Smith said he included his personal cell phone number on the bills, which were mailed out last Monday and Tuesday.
So far, he’s received about 10 phone calls.
Property owners within the levee district trict are seeing the maintenance fee increased 874 percent. Smith said the previous assessments, which, if all collected, brought in around $6,200 each year, were multiplied by 8.74. For instance, if a property owner paid $5 in previous years, he or she would pay $43.70 this year.
The total revenue from the maintenance fee this year, if it is all collected, will be $49,818.61 — still only a fraction of what is needed to succeed in getting the levee reaccredited.
In coming to the figure of $49,818.61, 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 an 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. No word has been received from the attorney general’s office, Smith said Monday afternoon.
In order to meet its statutory deadline of Dec. 1, the levee commission voted at a Nov. 14 special meeting to proceed in sending out the tax bills with the increased rate.
“Nobody’s been real mad,” Smith said, addressing the phone calls he’s received so far.
Smith said one caller was “a little upset” because his property is located outside the levee district, and therefore he shouldn’t be receiving a maintenance fee bill.
“When it was five or six dollars, he didn’t mind paying for it, but now that it went up to fifty dollars, he called,” Smith said.
Yet another property owner called to say his property was the second highest (in terms of elevation) in the city and that he did not benefit from the levee, Smith said. After looking into it, Smith said that person’s property was likely not in the levee district any way.
Smith said he expected a few kinks in the process and said they would get worked out.
He also said he’s hopeful the attorney general’s office will rule in the commission’s favor.
“I tried to make them understand that we’re under a directive by the federal government to spend three, maybe, four hundred thousand dollars [to repair and reaccredit the levee], we’re not sure what it will cost, and there is no way to do that with six thousand dollars,” he said.
If the commission manages to collect the majority of the maintenance fees, Smith said he imagines $10,000 will go toward the upkeep and maintenance of the levee.
“That leaves an extra thirty thousand dollars to issue bonds that will generate the money to pay for the repairs and accreditation,” Smith said.