Scott County Fiscal Court approved taking the compensating tax rate for 2019, but some magistrates were concerned about the cost of future projects and increasing labor costs.

The Department for Local Government recommended the compensating tax rate at .062 per $100, which is down from last year’s .063 per $100. The compensating rate is based upon newly assessed real property values, not taking into account new growth and tangible.

Magistrate Chad Wallace asked what the difference was in revenue. County treasure Michelle Ray said taking the compensating rate instead of the existing rate would mean about $49,000-$50,000 less on real restate taxes and about $3,500 less on tangible property.

“For just about every year we have taken the compensating rate, which is lowering the rate,” said Magistrate David Livingston. “If you go back and look at the decrease every year and the compounding effect on number of years moving forward, and if you keep the same rate, in my mind you aren’t raising taxes. It’s like if I make more money I pay more income taxes because I made more money. If you pay more in real estate tax because your housing value has increased which is benefit if you sale your house.

“We know the jailer is asking for two more employees, the fire department and sheriff’s office, and capital projects, I have concern about keeping same revenue moving forward.”

Magistrate Alvin Lyons said it is a tax increase if you live in the neighborhoods that had a property value increase.

“If you take the compensating rate, we are still going to have $95,000 projected increase in revenue,” Lyons said.

“I’m just looking at all the things we are talking about doing, it takes money. The projects coming forward are well over what we have in reserves. Our insurance is going to increase. Our payroll is going to increase,” Livingston said. “But we are stepping back our tax rate, and then future courts” are going to have to deal with it.

The court voted 4-1 to approve the compensating rate, with Wallace voting against it. Magistrates Bernard Palmer and Bill Burke were absent.

Wallace asked where the county ranks in tax rates and Ray said we are in the lowest 10 percent in the state.

“I mean 115 counties have a higher tax rate than we do and we are the fastest growing county in Kentucky and there will be a breaking point at some time,” Wallace said.

County Judge Joe Pat Covington agreed and that there is a capital projects committee looking at county needs and will bring that to the court after a public forum and discuss how to pay for it.

“I think this court will not do anything that is not fiscally conservative and responsible,” Covington said. “I totally understand where you are coming from (directed at Livingston) that this court will have to decide and look at, but don’t have to do it right now until the capital projects committee comes with the plan.”

The fiscal court also approved the health and extension board tax rates.

Dr. Crystal Miller, public health director for WEDCO, said its board kept the rate at .044 per $100 for real property and personal property, same as last year. Magistrate Rick Hostetler asked what that rate generates in revenue and Miller said it is about $1.9 million. She also answered questions how recent pension laws affect its budgets.

“We qualify as a quasi-state agency. There are Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees considered vesting, which is different than Tier 3. They don’t care as much about pension,” said Miller, referencing the tiers reflect when they came into the system. “The language says health departments have to make a decision if they are going to stay in the system or get out. The barrier to that is if you get out you have to pay your liability, and for WEDCO it is $40 million. Nobody can do that so it really isn’t an option. There is talk about a new bill cleaning up that language.

“We got a reprieve, so we are at 49% . When I came in 12 years ago it was 7% and expected to go to 84% next year.”

Wallace asked if basically the health department is having to bear greater burden in using tax dollars to pension.

“Yes, if we go to 84% next year it is a $1.5 million increase to our bottom line on pension debt,” Miller said.

Livingston asked if she had heard any legislation on having fiscal courts set the tax rate. Miller said it is always a possibility.

“’l will go on record that I’m not for that,” Livingston said. “I don’t want to set the library tax rate, the health board tax rate. I don’t want to set tax rates for any organizations we don’t have say so on how they set the budget or run the department. We don’t know the day-to-day operation.”

The extension board tax rate was set at the compensating rate as they did last year. For real estate property it is .0178 per $100 and for personal property is .031 per $100.

In other business:

- Approved hiring of a new paramedic and two new jail hires from part time to full time

- Approved second reading of new circuit court fees

- Had first reading on harassment and discrimination workplace policy

Steven McClain can be reached at smcclain@news-graphic.com.

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