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Population 4,655 Ul Unit Says

This article first appeared in issue 8, and was written by Ed Waggener.

According to the latest figures from the Urban Studies Institute at UL, the population of the City of Columbia has grown by 810 persons since 1990, from 3,845 then to 4,655 in 1994, the latest year for which the center has estimates.

That growth would appear, from a windshield observation, to be more than matched by new building north of Russell Creek, in areas presently out of the city limits.

Mayor Curtis Hardwick has acknowledged that the city is studying expansion of the city limits. "Right now," he said in a telephone interview, "we're waiting to see exactly where the path of the bypass will be. We want to expand to the bypass, and we also want to annex Green Hills and East 80 Estates."

The last annexation by Columbia was in the early 1980's, when Mayor Coy Downey was in power. At that time, the city expanded to include the Sportsman's Club area, Oshkosh #2 (now Image Analysis)-the area adjoining Petty's Fork Creek.

Annexing is not as easy as it was then, Mayor Hardwick says. Citizens in the areas to be annexed have more say now than then. "We'll have to sell annexation," Mayor Hardwick said. "We have to show them that the benefits make it worth while."

In exchange for adding city property tax, city insurance taxes, and occupational taxes, the new areas would receive city police protection, natural gas, sewers, street lights and, perhaps, a lower fire insurance rating.

Insurance tax may be obstacle to annexation

Annexation could help bring jobs to the area. "Most industries want sewers and natural gas," Mayor Hardwick said.

Perhaps the greatest opposition to being annexed would come from the difference in insurance costs between city and county residents. The tax is levied on vehicle insurance and property and casualty insurance, but not on life, health, or workman's compensation insurance.

City residents pay 10.5% municipal tax-11.5 % when the fee the insurance companies are paid for handling the tax-more than county residents pay. A state tax of 1.5% brings the total tax for City of Columbia residents to 13%.

The difference can amount to a sizeable sum. In a household with a young driver, automobile insurance on the vehicle assigned to the young driver is frequently $2,000 per year and more. On such a $2,000 annual premium, city dwellers pay $230 more per year than county residents.

The total city/insurance company take was 5.75% before Mr. Hardwick became mayor. It was doubled shortly after he took office. Although 16 other communities in the state, including Burkesville, Campbellsville, and Greensburg, have equivalent 11.5% municipal tax on insurance. Liberty and Casey County have no insurance taxes.

Of the 1,781 cities and counties in Kentucky, most have no tax at all, while most of those who do have tax at less than 11.5%.

Top insurance tax collectors in the state are:

1) Ashland 14.95

2) Junction City 13.80

3) Ferguson 12.466

4) Grayson 12.075

5) Dayton 12.65

6) Columbia 11.50

tied with 15 others

Mayor Hardwick says that the increase was necessary because the city was short of money when he became mayor. The tax presently adds nearly $150,000 per year to the city's budget, which had an $800,000+ carryover to the current year.

While the insurance tax and city taxes may make annexation less attractive, it is true that the City of Columbia is a much bigger business under Mayor Hardwick.

City operations, pay, and benefits, have expanded under the present administration. Since the Hardwick Administration began, , the city has dramatically increased the police budget, given health insurance benefits to city councilpersons, initiated an economic development program in conjunction with the Adair County Fiscal Court,, created a tourism commission, and has put new emphasis on sidewalk construction.

This story was posted on 1996-10-15 12:01:01
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