Kentucky Cities FAQs

Does the Secretary of State provide guidance for filing city boundary changes pursuant to KRS 81A.470?
Yes. The Secretary of State's office provides a checklist to ensure all components of the filing are submitted.

What agencies receive KRS 81A.470 filings?
The Secretary of State and county clerk receive KRS 81A.470 filings.

What is the basis for the interactive maps on the Kentucky Cities website?
The interactive maps on this website are based on the boundary statements that cities were required to file with the Secretary of State's office pursuant to KRS 81.045, approved in 1980. All subsequent changes to city boundaries, such as annexations, severances and transfers, are added to the interactive map as KRS 81A.470 filings are approved by this office.

How are city boundary ordinances mapped?
The bearings and distances for KRS 81A.470 filings, including annexations, are plotted using Deedrunner or ArcGIS software. Once the calls are input, DGI staff determine a point of beginning for the survey, then use the software to create a shapefile. The shapefile location is further defined by using the description and plat submitted to the Secretary of State, as well as aerial photography, topographic maps and any other supplemental information that may aid in the placement of the ordinance.

What makes an annexation or other KRS 81A.470 filing unmappable?
Annexation ordinances and other KRS 81A.470 filings may be difficult or impossible to map if:

  • A bearings and distances description or plat is not provided 
  • A point of beginning cannot be determined
  • There are bad survey calls, or the survey does not close
  • There is little or no detail in the vicinity map

How often is the mapping updated on the website?
City boundary annexations are updated as documents are received by COT/GIS from the Land Office. Interactive maps on the website are updated at the beginning of every month.

Where can I view city boundaries online?
You can view a map of Kentucky city boundaries on the Kentucky Geographic Network's website.

Where can I download city boundary GIS data?
City boundaries in GIS ESRI shapefile format can be downloaded from the Kentucky Geographic Network.

Are high-quality city maps available online?
The interactive map is made for delivery to the internet, and the maps printed from the website are not high quality. High-quality maps are available from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). The KYTC's maps use the boundaries that are maintained at the Commonwealth Office of Technology, Division of Geographic Information, and are based on filings with the Secretary of State's office. There are several pull-down menus at the top of the webpage; use the "incorporated areas" pulldown to select a city name and view the map.

How do I correct my city's street names?
The procedure for correcting a city's street names depends on the type of correction.

  • KYTC road centerline name changes (e.g., changing Smith Rd. to Jones Rd.):
    • Must be submitted to your local appointed authority for approval;
    • For county-owned and -maintained roads, the county fiscal court must follow the procedures outlined in KRS 179.330 to officially change any road names and then submit them to KYTC through established update procedures;
    • The KYTC road centerline file contains only the county fiscal court-approved road names for the county-maintained roads. In some cases the 911 road name may be different for varying reasons. The KYTC file will always attempt to reflect the latest fiscal court information submitted to KYTC;
    • All other road name changes must be submitted to the locally defined owner of the road name (e.g., E-911, Road Foreman, Mayor, etc.) to be considered. If approved, the changes must then be submitted to KYTC through established channels for update of the road centerline file.
  • KYTC road centerline name corrections (e.g. Smith Rd. to Smyth Rd. or Smith Ln.)
    • Can be emailed to KYTC Road Centerline Name Correction Request;
    • The suggested correction will be reviewed by the proper authority and updated if approved.

Common Questions from Surveyors

What coordinate system is preferred for Point of Beginning (POB) locations?
Coordinates can be provided in any known coordinate system. The POB information should include both the coordinates and what coordinate system is being used. The first call in the description, usually labeled POB, should also be identified on the plat for proofing by the Secretary of State's Office.

Are coordinates for a POB available online?
Yes. Directions for obtaining POB coordinates are available online.

Can I use a handheld GPS unit to get POB coordinates?
Yes. Coordinates for the POB help DGI determine the location of the annexation ordinance. Even if you have a low-end GPS, the coordinates are useful. Although DGI uses aerial imagery to place annexations, coordinates help define the location.

Can I provide a digital file of the annexation boundry? If so, in what format?
Although cities are required to submit KRS 81A.470 filings to the Secretary of State's office in paper format for proofing, copying, research and certification purposes, digital files may accompany the documents. This office will include the digital files with the paper copies sent to COT/GIS. Digital files ensure an exact match in boundary placement and lead to more accurate depictions of annexations and other KRS 81A.470 submissions. DGI can accept DWG files or shapefiles.

What is the process for correcting existing filings?
City filings from 1980 through 2002 were mapped in 2002, at which time many ordinances did not include descriptions, or the descriptions were vague. Please contact the Land Office for suggestions for enhancing older KRS 81A.470 filings.

In 2004, legislation was approved that requires professional land surveyors to depict and describe tracts being annexed, severed or transferred. If there seems to be a placement issue, contact your local area development district and work with district staff to correct the placement of the annexation ordinance based on the information provided in the filing. District staff can provide shapefile/GIS data with the corrected placement to COT/GIS. COT/GIS staff will compare the information provided by the district with the information provided in the filing, and if it is determined that minor corrections need to be made on the city's interactive map, COT/GIS will make those corrections. If there are significant corections that need to be made, COT/GIS will refer the city to the office of the Secretary of State.

Other Questions of General Interest

Why isn't my city listed in your database?
Exisiting cities that comply with KRS 81.045 and new cities incorporated under KRS 81.050 and KRS 81.060 are included in the Secretary of State's Kentucky Cities website. Information from 1942-1980 filings is included as a matter of historical interest. Communities that did not comply with KRS 81.045 are not included on the Kentucky Cities website at this time.

Why does your listing of "county seats" list 122 cities if there are only 120 counties?
Two Kentucky counties have two cities listed as county seats. Campbell County lists Alexandria and Newport as the county seat; Kenton County lists Independence and Covington as the county seat.

What is an area development district (ADD)?
An ADD is a regional organization that assists in the formulation and implementation of human resource and infrastructure-related plans. In 1967, pursuant to Executive Order 67-233, Kentucky was divided into 15 multi-county regions for planning purposes. In 1971, pursuant to Executive Order 71-267, ADDs were established as the official regional planning and development agencies for their respective areas. In 1972, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted legislation (now found in KRS 147A.050-140) that provides the basic organizational structure for ADDs.

Why is a link to our city's website not included on the Secretary of State's Kentucky Cities website?
The Land Office is making every effort to include all non-commercial links to city websites on its Kentucky Cities website. Due to changes in URL addresses and the constant development of new city websites, this office is not always made aware of additions and revisions that need to be made. Please notify the office of any non-commercial city links that should appear on your city page by contacting:

Land Office
Secretary of State
Capitol Building
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-3490

Who compiled the Census information for the Kentucky Cities database?
The Kentucky State Data Center, University of Louisville, supplied the city population totals used on the Kentucky Cities website. Two categories of data are included: (1) United States Decennial Census for 1970 through 2000, and (2) city population estimates for 1990 through 1999. For other demographic information regarding Kentucky, visit the Kentucky State Data Center's website.

What are the Land Office's references for incorporation and establishment dates and historical notations?
Filings by city governments, Acts of the Kentucky General Assembly, The Kentucky Encyclopedia, Glenn Clift's publication on Kentucky Cities and research by Dr. Eugene Harrell, former director of the Land Office provide references for incorporation and establishment dates and historical notations.

Are copies of city by-laws or charters filed with the Office of the Secretary of State?
No. To obtain information regarding governmental structure and procedures, please contact your local city hall.

Where did the Land Office obtain the photographs on the Kentucky Cities website?
More than 100 photographs of Kentucky cities are included on this website. Due to security concerns, photos cannot be downloaded at this time. Non-copyrighted pictures may be submitted by mailing a CD or emailing them to the Secretary of State's Land Office. If more than one picture is submitted and approved for inclusion on a city's page, the photos will appear in random sequence.

What is a "Commonwealth"?
According to The Historical Atlas of Kentucky and Her Counties (Wendell H. Rone, Sr.), the two designations "Commonwealth" and "State" were synonymous in the late 1700s. The Historical Atlas states:

"The term Commonwealth goes back to the time of Oliver Cromwell when he created the Commonwealth of States or Colonies of Great Britain. 'Commonweal'-for the good of all-was the meaning implied. Virginia, Massachusetts, & Pennsylvania were Commonwealths of Great Britain. A Commonwealth in America is a State having its immediate outgrowth from one of the original Colonies."

In his article in The Kentucky Encyclopedia, Ron Bryant States:

"Commonwealth is a part of the official name of Kentucky, as decided by the first Assembly on June 4, 1792.... The first use of the word commonwealth in official documents regarding Kentucky occurred in 1785, when the inhabitants of the Kentucky District petitioned Virginia to recognize Kentucky as a 'free and independent state, to be known by the name of the 'Commonwealth of Kentucky'."

How is city classification determined?
In 1994, Section 156 of the 1891 Kentucky Constitution was repealed and replaced by Sections 156a and 156b (pertaining to municipal home rule for cities). Pursuant to Section 156a:

"The General Assembly may provide for the creation, alteration of boundaries, consolidation, merger, dissolution, government, functions, and officers of cities. The General Assembly shall create such classifications of cities as it deems necessary based on population, tax base, form of government, geography, or any other reasonable basis and enact legislation relating to the classification. All legislation relating to cities of a certain classification shall apply equally to all cities within the same classification. The classification of all cities and the law pertaining to the classifications in effect at the time of adoption of this section shall remain in effect until otherwise provided by law."

To date, the Kentucky General Assembly has not passed legislation that establishes a new process for classifying Kentucky cities. Because Section 156, as approved in 1891, has not been superseded, the original classification requirements prevail.

The 1891 Kentucky Constitution was the first of Kentucky's four constitutions to base legislative districts on population. Section 156 established a system of classification that assigns cities to one of six classes based on the following population levels:

  • First Class - 100,000 or more
  • Second Class - 20,000 to 99,999
  • Third Class - 8,000 to 19,999
  • Fourth Class - 3,000 to 7,999
  • Fifth Class - 1,000 to 2,999
  • Sixth Class - 999 or less

Section 156 also dictates procedures for changing a city's classification:

"The General Assembly shall assign the cities and towns of the Commonwealth to the classes to which they respectively belong, and change assignments made as the population of said cities and towns may increase or decrease, and in the absence of other satisfactory information as to their population, shall be governed by the last preceding Federal census in so doing; but no city or town shall be transferred from one class to another, except in pursuance of a law previously enacted and providing therefore."

KRS 81.036 pertains to the recording of a reclassification with this office:

"Upon reclassification of an incorporated area, the General Assembly shall provide the Secretary of State notice of the reclassification and a copy of the certified information which was presented to the General Assembly. Such information shall be maintained by the Secretary of State along with other information relating to such area as required by KRS 81.045."

As the Kentucky General Assembly reclassifies Kentucky cities, those changes are added to the cities' pages on the Secretary of State's website. If the legislation does not include an effective date for the reclassification, the reclassification will become effective on the date set by the Attorney General for all legislation approved during that session. If the legislation includes an emergency clause, the enrolled bill will become law upon the Governor's signature.

What is the current reclassification process?

Pursuant to KRS 81.032:

(1) Prior to the reclassification of any incorporated area by the General Assembly, the legislative body of such area shall provide to the General Assembly by certified resolution the population data as required by subsections (2) and (3) of this section.

(2) Prior to the reclassification of any incorporated area by the General Assembly, such area shall have attained the population requirements as established by Section 156 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

(3) The population of any city proposed for reclassification shall be based on consideration of the most recent municipal population estimates as provided by the United States Bureau of Census, except that if recent growth in a city makes such estimates invalid, a city may submit for consideration an affidavit to certify such new growth. Such an affidavit shall be supported by documentation which may include more recent property valuation information, door to door population counts or other municipal data, such as annexation records, which may not be included in the recent population estimates.

What does "Effective Date to be Determined" mean with respect to city filings regarding classification changes?
Legislation passed by both chambers of the General Assembly, submitted to the Governor for signature consideration and sent to the Secretary of State for filing is known as an "enrolled bill." The effective date of enrolled bills can vary.

  • If the enrolled bill states a specific effective date, the bill becomes law on that date.
  • If the enrolled bill includes an emergency clause, the bill becomes law immediately after the Governor's signature is affixed (or upon filing with the Secretary of State if the Governor chooses not to affix his signature).
  • Enrolled bills that do not include a specific effective date or emegency clause become law on a date set by the Attorney General, usually 90 days after sine die adjournment.

The Land Office will update city filing information regarding reclassification as soon as the effective date of the enrolled bill has been determined and announced by the Attorney General's office.

What do the "Map Status" labels mean?
"In Progress" means the submission was accepted by the Secretary of State's Office and has been copied for the Division of Geographic Information.

"Unmappable" means that although the submission was accepted by the Secretary of State's Office, the filing lacks sufficient information for the Division of Geographic Information to place the annexed/severed/transferred area on the interactive map. There may be a hyperlink to additional information regarding the reason the submission was not mappable.

"Mappable" means that the submission was accepted by the Secretary of State's Office and the annexed/severed/transferred area has been added to the city's interactive map by the Division of Geographic Information. If problems were encountered in placing the parcel on the interactive map, there may be hyperlink to additional information about those problems.