GLASGOW – Most of the first hour of Wednesday's regular meeting of the board of directors for Barren County's special ambulance service taxing district was used for discussion of 2019 property tax rates and exactly which things would be taxed.
Four of the five board members were present, with Philip Roper still having not attended a single meeting since his appointment early this year when the board was expanded from three to five members.
Board treasurer Jackie Brown proposed a motion making the rate 2.4 cents per $100 of assessed value across the board for all categories the district can legally tax, with the exception of “other agricultural products,” but including aircraft and inventory in transit, with the definition and examples of the last category consuming several minutes of the discussion.
Martin Peterson, vice chair, had commented on the quandary of having the initial real property tax rate, set by fiscal court when the district was created, so low that if it were raised even to 2.5 cents per $100 of value, it would hit the threshold of a 4 percent increase in revenue that triggers a series of other required steps that are in an established timeline that could not take place in time to prevent the district from having to have a separate tax billing.
On the other hand, he said he has found nothing to indicate that those same steps have to take place for the rates on other property. He said he thought perhaps they should set a higher rate for those categories, not so much out of concern for paying the immediate bills for the county's share of the deficit of Barren-Metcalfe County Emergency Medical Services, but rather with an eye toward building up a fund for property acquisition and construction. Both Barren County stations are having significant and persistent maintenance issues, but neither piece of land on which they sit is owned by the ambulance service.
The district's tax on motor vehicles and watercraft just started this calendar year, and the tax on other types of personal property will be new for the coming year.
Brown said he felt the additional $130,000 in anticipated revenue from the new categories of property being taxed would be sufficient to get them moving in the right direction for now, and in the meantime, questions of whether the district will be allowed to purchase property could be resolved and a more specific plan on how the funds would be used could be determined.
Peterson asked Charlie O'Neal, executive director for the ambulance service, about the urgency of the need for a new facility, and O'Neal said the urgency is definitely there, but he agreed with Brown that rate he proposed across the board would be the best first step toward that end, to where at least some land could be purchased.
Ultimately, the four of them, with Sydney Knicely and Ann Christie being the others present, agreed unanimously to Brown's motion and also separately to present that decision in the form of a resolution to the relevant parties.
The Kentucky Department for Local Government, based on county assessments, estimated that revenue from real property, i.e. real estate, would be about $498,618 at that rate. The tax on motor vehicles and watercraft is estimated to generate almost $77,000.
In other business:
• Peterson reviewed with the group a proposed amendment he had drafted for the ordinance that established the taxing district that would provide the district with certain powers and duties, such as purchasing/owning real estate and potentially even handling the operations of the service, that were in the original ordinance but that had been removed in a later amendment. The board had already authorized requesting this amendment of the Barren County Fiscal Court in concept, but Peterson, an attorney, said that after preliminary discussions, he wanted something concrete he could show the magistrates as to what was being requested, so he had drafted the new ordinance amendment and asked the county attorney to review it for formatting and such. The fiscal court Administrative and Budget Committee had some discussion on the topic but decided it wanted more information before moving forward. It is likely to meet again before the Aug. 20 fiscal court meeting to decide on a recommendation.
• Peterson noted that, under a previous agreement, Barren County governmental entities through their general funds and then initially the district, after it was established, were paying 60 percent of the ambulance service deficit. T.J. Samson Community Hospital and Metcalfe County were each paying 20 percent. With the implementation of cost-based accounting that specifically attributes revenue and costs to the locations incurring them in Barren and and Metcalfe counties, the taxing district board decided in spring 2018 that it would not pay any deficit amounts that could not be attributed to Barren County, which led to some issues for several months until a new agreement was reached. Now, the hospital pays 20 percent off the top of the monthly deficit amount, and then each county pays the amounts attributed to it, but the hospital and Metcalfe County have a separate agreement through which the hospital may help cover that county's share.
The financial report for the fiscal year that ended June 30 showed that Barren County “only had to pay $252,335 of the deficit, which was actually $850,559, so instead of paying 60 percent of the deficit …, we only paid a little less than 30 percent of the total deficit this past year. That is $258,000, approximately, that we saved Barren County taxpayers as a result of the decision that we took in April 2018.”
“That's quite a savings,” Knicely said.