COVINGTON, Ky. - It used to cost Covington taxpayers $250 to $700 every two weeks to publish legal ads notifying citizens that the Covington City Commission had passed new ordinances or changed existing ones.
Now it costs about $60.
The sharp reduction in cost comes courtesy of a change made by the Kentucky General Assembly earlier this spring to an arcane state law dictating what’s called legal reporting requirements. The new law impacts local governments in highly populated areas.
In addition to saving tax money, the new requirement has other benefits for Covington residents - the legal notices will reach more people, contain more information, and give them the option of printing or downloading copies of the ordinances, said Maggie Nyhan, Covington’s City Clerk.
“It’s a good thing all around,” Nyhan said. “It’s just a better way of keeping our residents informed.”
The simple description of the change is this:
- Under the old way, after each meeting in which the City Commission passed or changed an ordinance, the City was required to buy a legal ad in The Kentucky Enquirer (as the paper with the largest paid circulation in Covington). The ad was required to contain the “heading” of the ordinance as read on the Commission floor before each vote, plus a one-sentence summary.
- Under the new way of notifying residents, the City is still required to buy a legal ad, but it’s short, essentially a “link” that directs readers to the City’s website. There residents can see not only the heading but also the entire ordinance, which can be several pages long in some instances.
They also can see all the ordinances passed to date in the calendar year.
The new ordinances - which can be found HERE
- can be accessed from the Home page by looking in “FORMS & DOCUMENTS” section and clicking on “Recent Ordinances.”
The change reflects the changing ways in which Covington residents access news about the City.
“I worked for newspapers for seven years before I went to law school,” said Assistant City Manager Frank Warnock. “That was back in the day when newspapers were the best way to notify people. Everyone with some semblance of a brain read the newspaper. Now all of that has changed because of the internet and technology.”
“The requirements should be to notify the most people possible in the most efficient manner,” Warnock said.
Under the old requirement, the only people who were “notified” were those with a paid subscription to the paper. But the number of Covington residents who go to the paper for their news has drastically decreased over the years, given that the paper continues to shrink in size and staff, almost never sends reporters to cover City Commission meetings, and rarely features Covington news.
Under the new requirement, the ordinances can be read by anybody with access to a computer or a phone with Internet access. The City’s website, accessed HERE
, is updated every day with Covington-related news.
Furthermore, because the complete ordinances are stored in PDF format, residents can print and download copies.
And the cost savings isn’t insignificant.
For example, on July 23, the City bought two legal ads - one for $421.60 and one for $280.86 - to notify residents about the new ordinances passed during meetings the week of June 25th. With the new requirement now in place, the City recently paid only $59.94 for a legal ad about ordinances passed the week of Aug. 14.
However, the new requirement as it stands now will be in effect for only two years, since it passed as one of numerous provisions in the legislation that contained the state’s two-year budget.
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