The tax subdistrict includes the area defined as north of Catnip Hill Road and west of the Norfolk Southern railroad up to the Fayette and Woodford county lines.
A Kentucky statute — KRS 75.015 — was enacted in 1994 allowing for the formation of fire protection subdistricts. The plantiffs in the lawsuit allege that the subdistrict statute stands in violation of section 171 of the Kentucky Constitution, which states that taxes “shall be uniform upon all property of the same class subject to taxation within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax.”
The suit further alleges that even if the statute allowing subdistrict taxes is constitutional, the ordinance creating the subdistrict is invalid because it did not restrict the use of funds from the subdistrict tax as required by KRS 75.015.
The auditor's report, released in December 2009, claimed that the fire district had not maintained separate accounting of the subdistrict funds and that it had used subdistrict funds to benefit the entire district. The report specifically referenced an $809,000 ladder truck that was purchased from subdistrict funds in April 2009 but was still located at the main fire station at the time of the audit. Gary Sorrell, then-chairman of the JCFD Board of Trustees, said the truck had been at the subdistrict station for two months at the time of the audit after training was done with it at the main station.
The plantiffs in the lawsuit seek a refund of the “unconstitutional taxes” they paid during a two-year period and also seek that “all funds improperly commingled, converted and expended on salaries, facilities, equipment and services that were shared by the entire Fire Protection district” be restored to the subdistrict.
Jessamine County Judge-Executive Neal Cassity, who has been in office since 1989, said the fiscal court levied the tax believing it was constitutional but that the property owners had the right to challenge it.
“We think that it’s a bona fide tax, or we wouldn’t have put it on,” he said. “Some of those folks will never think it’s bona fide until it’s tested by a court, so if they need to file that to get it tested, that’s the freedom that they need to take advantage of.”
Ron Eldridge, current chairman of the fire board, said the fire district had taken steps to fix all the problems found by the state auditor last year.
“We’ve addressed all those issues — of course, you don’t fix something that’s messed up overnight — but we feel like we’ve got most every issue that was addressed in the state auditor’s review,” Eldridge said. “We’ve addressed those issues as requested, and all indications, everything was moving along very well.”
The plantiffs in the suit are Carole Herman, Daniel Bork, Jack W. Bullock, Timothy R. Echelard, Ann Ehigner Galvin, Margery Hardy, Kris Steubs, Linda Hostetter, Vernon Shriver, Tim and Paula Gisler Wolf, and William Van Epps.
Eldridge said he had received several calls from residents of the subdistrict who were upset to hear that other residents had filed a lawsuit.
“We’ve got a lot of folks really upset about this lawsuit,” Eldridge said. “They’re totally against what [the plantiffs] have gone out and filed a lawsuit on ... There are two different sides to all stories, and there are a lot of folks up there very dissatisfied.”
The 2010 county fire tax rate is 5.2 cents per $100 of real estate, up from 5.0 cents in 2009. Residents of the north subdistrict pay an additional tax of 4.6 cents per $100, down from 4.8 cents in 2009.