House Bill 1, designed to provide greater oversight of the state’s special taxing districts, was a topic of discussion at the Cumberland Tourist and Convention Commission meeting this week.
The bill passed both houses of the General Assembly and has been sent to the governor’s office for his signature.
The bill as designed requires more transparency and accountability.
According to a report from State Auditor Adam Edelen’s office, special taxing districts spend about $2.7 billion a year with little oversight. The money comes from a combination of taxes, fees and other funding.
In Edelen’s report, he found about 40 percent of the special taxing districts are not submitting budgets to the county governments which they are required to do.
“Tourism dollars are going to be more transparent,” said Bailey. “It’s eventually going to go into effect, probably in 2014, where we will use a form online with Kentucky Local Government where you fill out your finance information. The public will eventually be able to go in and view our finances. It is public record. It’s not just tourism, but all special taxing districts. They are just trying to make it all more accountable and transparent. It won’t really affect us as much as others because we’re so small.”
Bailey said she was told if commissions have large sums of money in their accounts that aren’t earmarked, then that will be a red flag to Edelen’s office. She said the auditor’s office will want to know why that money is just sitting in an account and not being appropriated for something.
“This has been talked about for the last year and a half,” said Bailey. “But, there is no money — and people are looking for money and they know tourism dollars are huge and bring in billions of dollars a year. We’re accountable and I don’t see it affecting us in any big way. For now, we’re good, and in 2014 when things come into place, we’ll comply just like everybody else and go with the flow.”
Commission member Joe Creech said the panel needs to be more careful in the future about how they allocate funds.
“Anytime we approve a donation or whatever, let’s make sure it’s part of the minutes — the justification we’re putting with that,” said Creech. “We may discuss it, but we’ve never done this. Once the minutes are approved that is the authorizing document.”
In other action the commission:
*Approved a $130 sponsorship donation for the Harlan County High School girls softball team;
*Heard plans are being made for a bike ride from Cumberland Elementary School to the Benham Park as part of the Black Bear Festival;
*Agreed the commission will help market a motorcycle route, which will travel through parts of Harlan and Letcher counties and parts of Virginia. The cost will be $1,500 per year for the Cumberland commission.
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, email@example.com