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Spending Your Tax Dollars: Soil Conservation Board

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By Lisa King

What is the soil conservation district’s area of control?

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The Shelby County Soil Conservation District covers all of Shelby County, encompassing all residents, both urban and agricultural, as well as all property, including that belonging to government entities, such as parks and recreation. The primary purpose of the district is its cost-share program, which means that farmers and landowners who are approved for funds for a particular project, such as building a farm pond, share the cost – up to 50 percent – with the district. There are seven components of the programs, encompassing seeding, water, heavy use, sinkhole repair, comprehensive nutrient management (manure), lime and cover crops. These programs were designed to address such issues as soil conservation, flood prevention, drainage, water supply, irrigation and prevention of sedimentation. Farmers or landowners must fill out applications to be approved for assistance. During the past 5 years, 1,125 landowners have received funds of varying amounts, typically at least $1,000.

 

How was this district created?

The Shelby County Soil Conservation District was created Jan. 7, 1949, by state law, 14 years after the Soil Conservation Act of 1935 was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt. That act recognized that soil erosion was a “menace to the national welfare” and declared that Congress should provide for measures to prevent it. The act established the Soil Conservation Service within the United States Department of Agriculture. Even though in 1995 the SCS was renamed the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Shelby’s district remains referred to – even on its current budget – as the soil conservation district.

 

What is the taxation rate?

The taxation rate is 1 percent per $100 of assessed value of real property.

 

How much has that rate changed in the past 5 years?

The taxation rate has not changed since it was instituted in 2007. At that time, the soil conservation board voted to implement a millage tax, because the board has the power, per state law, to levy taxes. The board made the decision to impose a tax because up until that time, the only funding the district received, other than state and federal cost-share money, was $35,000 from the Shelby County Fiscal Court, and board members wanted to be able to have more viable programs. The revenue from the tax increased the district’s revenue substantially, from $80,854 to the $300,000 range. Neither the public nor the fiscal court had any input in setting the tax.  

 

What is this year’s annual operating budget, and how much is held in cash reserves?

The 2013 budget is $284,264. There is no cash reserve, meaning that each year's budget is spent in its entirety.

 

What has been the biggest expenditure in the past 5 years?

The largest expenditure has been the cash paid in cost-sharing projects with landowners. In 2008-09, cost-sharing expenditures totaled $147,979. In 2010, that figure was $211,613; in 2011, that figure was $266,672; in 2012, $219,690, and in 2013, it was $200,585. Those figures have fluctuated significantly because of tax values placed on real estate have varied the cash available. Cost-sharing programs each year are supported by funding from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture the U.S. Department of Agriculture to supplement the project, but those amounts vary because of the types of programs for which the district submits requests vary. The allocations range from $51,202 in 2009 to $20,000 in 2013. Another large expenditure within in the past 5 years has been the board’s seed program, which in 2013 requires $75,000. This program pays for seed for farmers to re-sow hayfields and pastureland to prevent soil erosion. The seed program runs in 5-year cycles, based on the board’s policy, so it would not occur again until 2018. The salary for the one paid employee, the soil district administrator, Ann Griffin, is $42,000, and the lime program, began three years ago, which runs each year, is the next largest recurring expenditure, at $30,000. Water-quality projects will require $15,000 in 2013 and was $20,000 in 2012. The board rents an office at 65 Breighton Circle in a building owned by the USDA, for $1,500 per year.

 

How is the soil conservation board appointed?

The board is elected during a general election every 4 years. Officers are elected by vote of the board. The number of positions up for election rotates every 2 years, with three positions elected in 2012 and four coming up in 2014. Members serve 4-year terms.  

 

How many board members are there and what are their names?

There are seven board members (set according to county population), two advisors and one district administrator. The board hires the district administrator. Griffin has been with the district for 25 years. Barry Campbell, a former long-time board member who no longer lives in Shelby County, and Kathy Ranard, coordinator for Shelby County Clean Community, are the advisors, chosen by the board. Griffin, Campbell and Ranard do not vote. Board members are:

Fred Rothenburger(chair)

Robert Gravett(vice chair)

Jana Scott(treasurer)

Joseph Trumbo(member)

Gene Witt(member)

Larry JoeTingle (member)

Betty Curtsinger(member)

Barry Campbell(advisor)

Kathy Ranard(advisor)

Ann Griffin(district administrator)

 

Are board members compensated? If so, how much and how has that changed over the past 10 years?

Members receive $50 per monthly meeting. They were compensated $10 per meeting, until 2008.

 

Where and when does the board meet? Is it open to the public?

The board meets on the second Wednesday of the month, at 8:30 a.m., at the Shelby Soil Conservation District office at 65 Breighton Circle in Shelbyville. Meetings are open to the public, and people may request to be included on the agenda to speak to the board, up to a week before the meeting, which is when the agendas are made available at the office.

 

Who has oversight of soil conservation board?

The Shelby County Fiscal Court has oversight of the taxing district in collecting and forwarding budgets per state law. Magistrates only would become involved in the board’s actions if there were to be a request for a tax increase. Neither the USDA nor Kentucky Department of Agriculture has input.

Compiled by Lisa King