As planned, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Thursday created the Merger 2.0 Task Force. The panel will determine what has and hasn’t worked in the eight years since merger.
The task force will be led by Rebecca Jackson and Dave Armstrong, who were, respectively, the last county judge executive and city mayor before merger. Jackson says there’s still too much confusion about merger, especially with the urban services district. Residents of the old city pay an extra tax in exchange for services such as garbage collection. Everyone else pays small cities or private companies.
“It’s, again, a good time for public information to be out there so people know what they’re getting and why they’re getting it and what they’re paying for and what they’re not paying for and who’s paying for what,” she says.
The group’s report–which is due in October–may include a recommendation that urban services be expanded. Metro Councilman Kelly Downard says some expansion of those services is inevitable, but he imagines residents will have to opt-in to the services, rather than be taxed.
“I don’t think you can extend it because you’ve got 84 suburban cities already out there,” he says. “So you’d have to be running around to gerrymander each portion. I think you’re going to find in sections of the city, services will be available for everyone at some point in time…at a price.”
The lack of detailed information on the cost of urban services was an issue in the mayor’s race, and Fischer says the group will remedy that.
“That’ll be one of the areas that we look at so we understand the cost per household or whatever the measurement could be, so we can say, ‘Here’s what we’re spending outside the urban service district, here’s what’s being spent,” he says. “How can we approve either area? What are the cost tradeoffs?’ So there’ll be a lot of data collection.”
The task force will also review the efficacy of the suburban fire districts, many of which are short on funds. The group’s final recommendations will also likely include changes to the state law that regulates merger.