The constitutionality of a court-upheld county tax and the claim of the misappropriation of its revenue is now in question at a state level.
An appeal filed Monday in Jessamine District Court claims the fire-subdistrict tax is unconstitutional and burdens only 12 percent of the population in the county to pay for 56 percent of the entire cost of fire services in Jessamine County.
It states the Jessamine County Fiscal Court exceeded its authority and unfairly sectioned off a portion of the county to pay a higher tax for benefits that are spread around, which violates Kentucky’s constitution.
The complaint against the fiscal court challenges a February decision made in the circuit court to support the subdistrict fire tax on the residents of northwestern Jessamine County and states not only are they are being over-taxed but they are without representation.
It also claims the unelected Fire Protection Subdistrict board of trustees has misused the tax revenue and that the chairman of the Jessamine County Fire District threatened to eliminate services to the subdistrict if the tax was abolished.
The area sidled with the fire-subdistrict tax imposed by the fiscal court runs from the north side of Catnip Hill Road on the south up Norfolk Southern Railway on the east to Woodford County on the west, and to Fayette County on the north.
The effect of the sub-tax by the board of trustees, through the misappropriation of funds, minimizes the need for increasing the general tax rate in the county, the appeal claims.
The lawsuit cites a Dec. 22, 2009, report by Kentucky’s Auditor of Public Account Crit Luallen.
“While examining documentation made by the JCFD (Jessamine County Fire Department), we found the accounting process lacked transparency and certain documentation was not in agreement,” Luallen wrote. “Inconsistent information was identified with JCFD accounting policies and procedures for the subdistrict funds, inventory of JCFD fire trucks by action and expansion insurance premiums by location.”
Based on that report, in October 2010 there were 12 residents from Windhaven, Equestrian Estates and Clays Mill Crossing, who sought a reversal and judgment that the subdistrict tax was unconstitutional, including the law that allowed its creation because the fiscal court was over-exerting its authority.
The suit was filed against the fiscal court and the Jessamine County Fire District and challenged the legality of a fire-protection subdistrict tax for their area.
It initially sought to have the county pay 16 years of back taxes, which would be counted back from the tax’s 1995 inception.
However, in a February 2012 hearing, Judge Hunter Daugherty removed the Jessamine County Fiscal Court from that lawsuit, ruling the statute creating the subdistrict itself was in fact constitutional — this is the decision now in appeal.
The appeal claims the fiscal court is responsible for the tax and should be held accountable for higher taxes on a smaller percentage of people.
The lawsuit alleges the taxes residents paid for additional fire safety in the subdistrict are used by the county as a whole instead of the sole purpose of the subdistrict.
The residents contend the increased taxes they paid should be leveled with the rest of county, not paying more.
Daugherty’s decision in February stated residents are not entitled to refunded pay from the county.
Unlike most lawsuits with the fiscal court, county attorney Brian Goettl has removed himself; the county is now represented by attorney William Moore of Versailles.
“It would be easiest if they just told us where they feel the fire board misused funds,” Moore said in February. “Up until this point, the fire board has been very cooperative. If they would just provide a list, then we can come to some kind agreement, and if we can’t, then it can go into litigation.”
The litigation the county and the fire board now face has been listed in the latest appeal as a misappropriation of funds for insurance and vehicles.
Moore has not yet had time to dispute or respond to the allegation filed this week.