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$100K “found” in tax fund

By: Greg Bird

The McCreary County Fiscal Court heard some good news Thursday night as $100,000 was discovered in a special account that had gone unnoticed for several months.

Treasurer Mark Sewell addressed the court regarding the monthly financial statement and announced he had found over $102,000 in the Occupational Tax fund that would be transferred to the General Fund.

Since January 2013 all receipts from the Occupational Tax go directly into the General Fund, except for a deduction to cover salary and expenses for the office. But, since that time, the expenses and salary were being paid out of the General Fund, and the money set aside for that purpose has been sitting in the account, unnoticed until Sewell found it.

Though the money is an unexpected boon to the Fiscal Court, the monthly financial statement shows the County is still expected to end the month with a $39,000 deficit after all bills are paid.

Later in the meeting, on a related topic, Stephanie Tucker, McCreary County Occupational Tax Administrator updated the Court on delinquent accounts and collections for the fund.

Tucker said she had sent delinquent notices to most of the individuals and businesses who are behind on their payments and noted she has collected about $20,000 of the past due taxes.

But, there still is a long way to go, she said. Tucker estimated there is still over $96,000 in delinquent taxes for this past year alone still uncollected, and that amount runs in to the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past several years.

She recommended the Fiscal Court work with the County Attorney’s Office to take the next step, which would be to begin legal proceedings against those who have not paid.

The idea was met with approval from several citizens attending the meeting, with one suggestion to take several of the past-due accounts to court in the hopes others would understand the seriousness of the situation.

Judge Stephens stated he would talk to County Attorney Austin Price and noted – “It is time for it to stop.”

In other actions Thursday night, discussion continued on a proposed move of the McCreary County 911 Dispatch Center to a new location beneath the Ambulance Service Building.

Concerns were raised by magistrates last month concerning borrowing money to pay for the project, which was estimated to be about $50,000.

The project had been bid out, and Judge Stephens had asked for approval to seek a low-interest loan to cover the cost.

Opening the discussion, Judge Stephens asked the magistrates to hold off on a final decision until December to see if he and Deputy Judge Andrew Powell could come up with alternate means of funding the move.

Powell said he believed the proposed move is vital and would “Put my neck on the line,” to see it completed.

“I think this project is absolutely necessary,” Powell said. “I think we can afford it.”

He noted savings from maintenance, would decrease by about $800 per month with the move. That savings coupled with lower utility costs and networking expenses could be enough to cover any debt incurred by seeking a loan.

Powell said the County should be receiving PILT money, which could possibly be used to help finance the move. The County also could seek a no-interest loan from South Kentucky RECC, which would save money over the course of any borrowed money.

Powell said delaying the project for a couple months will not effect the grant funding received to purchase the new equipment for 911.

Magistrate Roger Philips said he supports the idea of moving the 911 center to a new location, but does not want the county to incur more debt to make it possible. Nor does he support the idea of converting the old building into offices once a move is made.

“I have never been against the project,” Phillips stated. “I’m against borrowing money.”

“The only way I will be on board is if we tear down the old building.”

Talk next turned to proposed employee raises,

Judge Stephens, again, asked to delay a decision for another month so he could examine the proposed plans and attempt to find ways to fund the raises.

“This is something I feel is very important for our employees,” Judge Stephens said.

Magistrates questioned the possibility of finding any additional funding in a month, and suggested using the Road Department as a test case, since that fund is in good shape.

Judge Stephens asked for another month, stating he wanted to issue raises all at once to not alienate one department from another.

“I think it has been unfair for a long time,” he said. “Next month, if I have nothing else, I will look at it department by department.”

Representatives of the county’s special taxing districts, including Library, fire departments, Health and Soil Conservation, were on hand to present their proposed tax rates for the coming year as part of a new state law requiring a formal presentation to the fiscal court annually.

Of all the special taxing districts represented at the meeting, only one issued a small tax increase.

Bradley Coffey, Jr., of the Soil Conservation District, stated the increase of .1 cent, from 1.6 cents per $100 to 1.7, was due to the increased work the District has done in the past two years, including expanding office hours and purchasing equipment that can be rented out to county-based farmers at a low cost.

Tax rates for the Library (7.7), all five fire districts (10.0) and Health Department (4.0) remain the same as last year.

The County tax rates will also remain unchanged with Real set at 9.50 and Motor Vehicle and Watercraft set at 20.40.

The next regular meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court will be on October 11 at 7 p.m. in the Fiscal Court Room.

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