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Classification

Classifcation Structure Since 2015

One of the top legislative priorities for the Kentucky League of Cities in 2014 was approved by the General Assembly through the passage of House Bill 331, which was KLC’s initiative to reform the classification system. As of January 1, 2015, the arbitrary classification system with six classifications changed to two classes: first class (Louisville) and home rule cities (all other cities). Lexington is a home rule city but maintains all responsibilities and privileges under its urban county statutes. Louisville will continue to exercise the powers of the first class city by virtue of being a consolidated local government.

The classification system in Kentucky allows cities and counties certain rights and responsibilities depending on the class. However, a number of laws apply based on city population or previous classification, as discussed below.

 

Classification Structure Prior to 2015

Prior to 2015, Kentucky cities were divided into one of six classes, which were based on population size tiers ranging from less than 1,000 to more than 100,000. That was despite the 1994 repeal of the constitutional requirement dictating population criteria. Because no new statutory system had been implemented, city classification continued to be based on population. As of 2014, one-third of cities were incorrectly classified based on the most recent Census population estimates, since cities could only change class with approval of the General Assembly. 

Below is a breakdown of cities by classification and population as of 2014, prior to the passage of classification reform legislation mentioned above:

 

Former Classification

Population Standard

Cities by Class

Cities by Population

1st*

100,000 or more

1

2

2nd*

20,000-99,999

13

16

3rd

8,000-19,999

18

32

4th

3,000-7,999

124

58

5th

1,000-2,999

106

99

6th

Less than 1,000

156

211

 

* Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government retains the powers of a first class city. Lexington/Fayette Urban County Government retains the powers of a second class city.  In most analysis performed by KLC, Louisville and Lexington are categorized together as "merged/metro" governments, leaving the other 12 second class cities in a group of their own.

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