By Greg Bird
It was a quick, quiet and calm meeting of the McCreary County Fiscal Court Tuesday night. As several members of the Fiscal Court were scheduled to attend a conference in Lexington this week, the meeting date and time was moved up two days to accommodate the magistrates who would not have been able to attend the normal meeting.
With the schedule change the meeting was considered a special called meeting, and, as such, the Fiscal Court was limited to taking action only on agenda items. As a result of the special status the normal citizen participation and other business portions of the meeting were excluded from the agenda.
The main item of business tackled Tuesday night was the continuing saga of the McCreary County Extension Board and the 3.95 cent tax the Board adopted last February.
Over the past few months the Fiscal Court has struggled with the tax, specifically the amount. Magistrates Roger Phillips and Jason Mann have both stated they were “blindsided” by the amount of the tax when it was revealed to public this past September.
Since the tax was adopted by the Extension Board, a special purpose government entity – a special taxing district, the Fiscal Court had no authority to dictate the amount of the tax, and have since moved to eliminate the Board and thus ending their ability to tax citizens.
The Court approved the second reading of an ordinance that began the process of dissolving the McCreary County Extension Board. The motion passed with no discussion by a vote of 4-1 with County Judge Executive Doug Stephens presenting the only dissenting vote.
Ordinance 150.6, which became official with the second reading, calls for the “non-specific dissolution” of the McCreary County Extension District and Board.
The next stage of the process is for the Fiscal Court to develop a second ordinance that will detail how the dissolution is to be handled, including assuming debts, managing the existing budget, and providing services offered by the Board.
Magistrates Roger Phillips and O.L. Perry stated they will serve on the committee and could possibly present an ordinance next month.
That process could prove tricky, as the magistrates have insisted they have no intention of interfering with the operations of the Extension Service, and their only intent was to remove the tax and return funding for the service back to previous levels.
Extension Service officials have stated the office cannot be run based on those previous funding levels, about $48,000 per year, and warn that the University of Kentucky would opt to shut down the service rather than operate with such limited funding.
If the service is indeed closed, it is unclear at this time what responsibilities the County would have to assume to continue to provide some level of service, and what that might cost.
The McCreary County Extension Board is scheduled to meet next Monday evening and will likely discuss the future of the service at that time.
After the second ordinance is developed and subjected to a first reading, the plan would have to face approval from the Department of Local Government and the University of Kentucky and a public hearing would have to be held before a second reading.
Once that stage is completed a third ordinance would have to be drafted performing the actual dissolvement of the Board.
In all the process could take at least three more months to complete. County officials hope to have everything in place prior to developing and passing a the 2018-19 County Budget in June.
In other Fiscal Court actions Tuesday:
The Court approved the appointment of Meghan Marshal to the McCreary County Tourism Board. Marshal will replace Susie Strunk Thompson, who had resigned the position.
The Court also accepted more than $25,000 from County Clerk Eric Haynes’ office in excess fees.
Two vehicles were purchased for County use: a 2007 Ford Explorer and a 2006 Ford F250. The F250 was purchased from Sheriff Randy Waters at a cost of $4,000 and will be used as a county maintenance vehicle. The vehicle was one of the units seized in a recent drug sting, and forfeited to the Sheriff.
The Explorer was purchased from Constable Bill Hayes at a cost of $3,500 and will be used as a 4-wheel drive prisoner transport vehicle, to be used only when road and weather conditions warrant.
State law stipulates the vehicles could not have been donated to the County, and had to have been purchased.
McCreary County Occupational Tax Administrator Stephanie Tucker presented an update on the status of several outstanding Occupational Tax accounts. The Fiscal Court had previously approved sending the past-due accounts to a collection agency. Tucker stated she had submitted two accounts to the agency, but has heard no update on how the collection efforts are going as of yet.
Tucker did state her office had issued 56 criminal summonses on other accounts, which has resulted in 11 accounts being settled in full and 12 others committing to making payments.
The next regular session of the McCreary County Fiscal Court will be on Thursday, March 8 at 6:00 p.m.