Kentucky Association of Counties

KACo Logo

Kentucky Association of Counties


County Champion


Developing a path forward on annexation

KACo presents ideas at task force meeting


Identifying potential solutions to Kentucky’s decades-long annexation problem was the focus of the latest meeting for the Task Force on Local Government Annexation. Following a summer of dialogue with county officials from across the state, representatives from the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) presented their ideas to the special committee last week.

“If left in place, these [current] laws that pit the budgets of counties against cities will continue to lead to conflict,” said Shellie Hampton, KACo Director of Government Affairs. “Instead, let’s fix this problem. While we have this moment in time, let’s fix this problem and craft the solution.” 

In previous task force meetings, legislators heard about the adverse effects of growing city boundaries that can and have occurred due to current annexation laws: lost revenue for county government, a lack of voice in the annexation process and the negative results of shoestring/corridor annexations.

To address those issues, KACo stressed the need for a level playing field for counties, stronger interlocal agreements and thoughtful plans for annexation. 

“We're not against city growth. [Counties] are just opposed to the process that ends up taking revenue from the county budget,” said KACo Executive Director Jim Henderson. “No proposal that KACo would put forward would involve taking one penny away from the city budget.”

KACo provided task force members with a booklet outlining the problems, particularly for the 25 counties with a population of more than 30,000 that are currently or would be required to surrender their occupational license revenue to the city when annexation occurs. Hampton said the majority of counties, however, do not experience this issue.

“So why wouldn't we fix this problem for the remaining counties?”

Revenue-sharing plans that address the particular needs of counties and cities could be formalized through interlocal cooperation agreements, however, county officials are largely at the mercy of their city counterparts for developing these agreements. Even in places where interlocal agreements are currently in place, Hampton said some of those are put in jeopardy when new officials take office.

“In practical effect, right now current law gives the city the only real leverage when it comes to choosing to amend or withdraw from a revenue-based interlocal agreement,” Hampton said.

Sen. Robert Stivers noted that he’s seen the consequences of current annexation laws play out in his district in southeastern Kentucky. 

“Annexation rules are not exclusively a battlefield for city versus county. I think the cities versus cities [issue] needs to start [being considered] for what annexation will look like,” Stivers said.

When looking at Kentucky’s neighbors, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee require cities to provide a plan of services as part of all annexation proposals. Henderson said there is a current statue in Kentucky outlining what such a plan should include – such as fire protection, water and sewer service, and projected tax rates – but that law only applies to Louisville.

Henderson concluded KACo’s presentation by emphasizing counties’ desire to reach common ground with cities. He said the executive committees of KACo and the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) have had “productive conversation” about the annexation issue.

“Counties and cities have a lot of issues we need to be working together on and the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us,” Henderson said. 

A recording of the full task force meeting is available here.

The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 27.  

More County News