General Assembly puts temporary pause on city annexation
A measure to put a one-year hold on city annexation and bring counties and cities together for development of a long-term solution cleared both the Kentucky House (83-8) and Senate (33-0; 3 pass votes) Thursday. (Click here for vote breakdown.)
An amended Senate Bill 141 was carried in the House by Local Government Chair Randy Bridges and guided through the Senate by President Robert Stivers. It now heads to Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk for signature.
“Leadership from both [the Kentucky Association of Counties and the Kentucky League of Cities] realized how important this topic was to bring to the table, and developing a task force to take a deep dive will enhance continued growth both are experiencing,” President Stivers said.
Annexation is the process of extending a city boundary. If a city and county both levy certain taxes, the county can lose existing revenue when the city annexes property, yet the county must still provide services for that area such as public safety, emergency management and infrastructure maintenance.
“Annexation is an issue that hasn’t been addressed in over 30 years,” Rep. Bridges said. “I appreciate members of the House and Senate leadership and caucus members pushing the conversation on this issue that is long past due.”
SB 141 puts a one-year pause on city annexation, expiring July 1, 2024, with exceptions to allow for substantial economic development projects, annexations that were initiated before March 1, 2023 and annexations in which the county and city are in agreement. The legislation does not prevent an annexation if the property owner made a request for annexation, the property is contiguous to the existing city boundary and the city has provided written notice to the county.
Jefferson and Fayette counties are excluded from the measure due to their unique government structure.
For the first time, SB 141 allows counties to contest an annexation within 45 days of publication of the city ordinance if it does not fall under one of the exceptions outlined in the legislation.
The bill also calls for the Legislative Research Commission to establish a task force that will review current methods of city annexation, impacts of annexation and make recommendations to the legislature by Nov. 1 of this year.
Jim Henderson, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) thanked legislators for hearing the concerns of county officials.
“Addressing the complicated issue of annexation has been a priority for counties. We support strong working relationships across all local governments, but the fact remains that city annexation can and has stripped away the revenue base of counties,” Henderson said. “Constitutionally-mandated county services don’t stop at the city line. These services benefit all residents, employees and businesses in the county.
“In addition to my personal thanks to President Stivers, we thank Speaker Osborne and House leaders for recognizing the work of counties. We look forward to developing long-term policy improvements with stakeholders and the General Assembly.”