|Steve Meyers asks council to reconsider the method for street repair. FTM file.|
Street repair assessments are an ongoing concern for many Fort Thomas property owners. While the practice of taxing residents of a street for improvements and repairs began in the 1920s, Fort Thomas is one of a very few Kentucky municipalities to continue to cover partial costs of road improvements in this way.
At the April city council meeting, resident Steve Meyers of Highview Drive questioned the method as outdated and inequitable. Highview Drive is one of six streets to be repaired in 2017 along with Custis Avenue, Washington Avenue, Lafayette Avenue, Lilac Lane and Diana Court.
Meyers said he did not have a problem with being taxed but felt the way the tax bills were determined, according to a property’s front footage, was unfair.
“I think basing it on assessed value would be much more fair. You take the total value of the property on the street and divide that by the total expenditure. Then you divide that up according to the assessed value of each property…That’s how other city services are taxed,” Meyers said.
“In my opinion. the roads should belong to all the citizens of Fort Thomas and should be contributed to by all the citizens according to the value of their properties.”
The current method uses a combination of criteria including how much of a property’s front footage abuts the street, length and width of the street, lot size (corner lots vs. regular lots), number of intersections and curb height.
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In March 2016, the city held a hearing on the street tax in which residents’ voiced similar concerns, but decided to continue its use. City officials credited the program with helping the city keep up with and make better decisions on street repair.
In response to Meyer’s proposal to use assessed property values instead of front footage, Mayor Eric Haas reiterated the city’s position that the assessment brings needed attention and valuable public input into the process helping the city to make better informed decisions.
“We debated this again last year. Do we do the special assessment or do we raise taxes and have everybody pay for these? It’s the biggest debate we had last year," said Haas.
“When we do street improvements this room fills up with people who are affected by it. Yes, we do get people commenting about whether this is the fairest and best way to pay for it, but what we also get are people who tell us there’s a water problem here or a drainage problem there.
“People give us feedback so when we do repairs we can do a much better job. One of the fears we have is if we just make it part of taxes no one will show up…This gives citizens a little skin in the game.”
He said in the past, council compared some of the ways allowed by the state to cover the costs of street repairs including using front footage, assessed value and square acreage. Each of the methods had merits and problems and one did not seem better than another, so city officials decided to keep the program as it was.
Haas went on to say, however, that it may be time to revisit the issue since there is so much concern and said he would do so at the next meeting of the Finance Committee.
RELATED: Raising Utility Franchise Fee Could Mean End of "Street Tax"
In 2015, the city began discussions on implementing a higher Duke Energy franchise fee, which would do away with frontage assessments, but that idea was never carried through.