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Airport tax questioned

In a relatively sedate Fiscal Court meeting Thursday night, a brief, but heated exchange between Airport Board member Bruce Murphy and PVA Bruce Lominac stirred up debate on the future of the tax the Airport Board is planning on imposing August 1.

There were three separate, but related incidents concerning the proposed Airport tax, with the third situation resulting in a verbal confrontation in the audience.

The Airport Board had requested to be placed on the agenda for the meeting, noting the requirement that any time a special taxing district initiates or increases a tax, the Fiscal Court has to be notified.

Last month the Board voted to impose an ad valorem tax of one cent per $100 of property value in order to raise about $17,000 needed for a runway recertification project, and to meet operating expenses.

Judge Executive Doug Stephens noted he has received opinions from County Attorney Conley Chaney and the Department of Local Government that the Court would have to vote to approve any tax imposed by the special taxing district.

Murphy disagreed, stating he too had spoken with the DLG and followed their instructions how to establish the tax.

“They gave me their advice, and we followed it to the letter,” Murphy said. “As far as we are concerned; the tax is legal.”

Judge Stephens wrapped up the brief discussion by stating they would continue to seek legal advice on the matter.

Later in the meeting, during the citizen participation portion, McCreary County PVA Bruce Lominac, speaking as a private citizen, noted that three members of the Airport Board had expired terms. Questioning the legality of the board initiating the tax with half the members serving under expired terms, he asked the Fiscal Court to resolve to vacate those three seats immediately.

According to Judge Stephens Murphy’s term expired last year, while Clifton Redden and Bill Smith’s terms expired on June 30.

Magistrate Jason Mann forwarded the motion, which was seconded by Leroy “O.L.” Perry; and passed 4-0.

A few minutes later, Murphy stood up and protested the Court’s previous vote.

“Mr. Lominac is pulling things out of his butt,” he began.

“I object,” Lominac stated, jumping to his feet.

“Did you know your term is over?” Lominac asked.

“Yes,” came Murphy’s response.

Lominac asked Murphy why the Board had not taken steps to reappoint those members.

“We had other things to worry about,” he said.

Murphy stated, despite the terms expiring, state law contends the members continue to serve until a successor is named.

Judge Stephens, again, interceded, stating he would seek legal advice to settle the issue.

According to Kentucky Revised Statute 183.132, members of the airport board serve a term of six years, and until their successors are “appointed and qualified.”

Since the Board did not request a re-appointment of the three expiring members, and the Fiscal Court’s motion did not include replacements for those positions, that action should not impact the Board’s proposed tax at this time.

The tax issue is not settled, however. Judge Stephens said he is seeking definitive word on the legality of the tax, while Lominac has indicated he could seek a court injunction to block it until the question is settled.

In other citizen comments Thursday:

Barry Sumner enquired about the long-discussed raise for county employees.

Judge Stephens stated there are no plans for raises in the near future, noting that the County has not raised taxes in a long time, and the cost of operations have continued to rise – depleting any funding that could go toward raises.

Bevo Greene asked if there were any updates to the proposed waste-to-energy plant.

Judge Stephens responded that the company was still in negotiations with an energy company, but hoped to hear positive news soon.

Betty Clark asked the Fiscal Court to settle a dispute concerning Grundy Road. No action was taken, but the Court did say they would try to resolve the dispute.

In other Fiscal Court actions: the Court approved County Attorney Conley Chaney sending letters to outstanding debtors with the county Occupational Tax.

The letter will offer an amnesty period through August 21, 2015. Anyone who owes back OC Taxes who pays in full during that period will have all penalties and interest forgiven. Those who make arrangements to pay on installments would have the penalties waived, but would still owe interest.

Judge Stephens said after that period expires the County would pursue legal action against all owed amounts.

The Court also approved a resolution to apply for a state grant for Gracie’s Rescue and the McCreary County Animal Control office to pay for a spay and neutering program.

The next Fiscal Court meeting will be on August 13 at 6:00 p.m. in the Fiscal Court room.

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