More cuts made in county budget, magistrate mentions tax increases

Metcalfe County Judge-Executive Harold Stilts is shown at right during Tuesday’s meeting of the Metcalfe County Fiscal Court. At left is Metcalfe County Attorney Barry Gilley.

EDMONTON — The Kentucky Department for Local Government returned Metcalfe County’s budget for the upcoming 2021 fiscal year, asking county officials to justify 12 items included in the budget.

Eleven of the justifications were approved, but the county’s general fund is “running really low.”

“The Department for Local Government is aware of that so they asked me to reduce our cash in bank and to choose a line item to cut,” said Vickie Stephens, county treasurer, on Tuesday during the Metcalfe County Fiscal Court meeting.

In preparing the county’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, funding for the Metcalfe County Volunteer Fire Department and the Edmonton-Metcalfe County Chamber of Commerce were both cut by 50 percent each.

The line item that was reduced was the year-end cash balance, Stephens said.

The county’s budget now totals to $9,647,143.52 and is $40,000 less than what it was when the fiscal court approved the ordinance on first reading for adopting the budget.

Before the fiscal court approved the ordinance on first reading, the county’s budget had been cut by $260,000 from the previous fiscal year’s budget.

More cuts made in county budget, magistrate mentions tax increases

Metcalfe County Magistrate Ronnie Miller brought up the issue of possibly increasing taxes in order to generate more revenue for the county during Tuesday’s Metcalfe County Fiscal Court meeting.

It was during the budget discussion that Magistrate Ronnie Miller made the suggestion that the county increase taxes in order to generate more revenue.

“Taxes are basically the same as they have been for years. Right? Fifteen or 20 years? The same revenue coming in,” Miller said.

He continued that the price of everything has doubled and in some instances tripled.

“I think it’s time we raise taxes. It’s probably a death sentence for a politician, but it’s a hard decision and it’s a tough decision,” he said. “I think we need to look at it.”

Miller mentioned increasing property taxes, as well as occupational taxes. The county currently has an occupational tax of 1 percent, while the city of Edmonton already has an occupational tax of 1 ½ percent.

The county’s tax rate for real property for the 2019 fiscal year was 9.2 cents per $100 of assessed value and was the compensating tax rate. It generated $284,191.

The compensating tax rate generates about the same amount of revenue as the prior year, taking into consideration a fluctuation in property assessment, Stephens said.

State law states that a public hearing is required if any city or county governmental body sets tax rates so that the amount of revenue they are expected to generate is 4 percent more than the amount of revenue produced by the compensating tax rate from real property, exclusive of revenue from new property.

If the fiscal court had chosen to set the tax rate for real property for the county so that it would generate 4 percent more than the amount produced by the compensating tax rate from real property, that tax rate would have been 9.5 cents per $100 of assessed value and it would have generated $293,458, Stephens said.

“We have got to have some revenue. It’s not like I can go out there and get a job or Kenny or any of us can get a job to make money and give it to the county,” Miller said. “You can’t do it that way.”

He continued that he knows every county statewide is facing the same issue.

“We need to look at some things to bring in some revenue,” he said.

Judge-Executive Harold Stilts asked that $2,000 for his travel expenses for the upcoming fiscal year be deleted from the budget.

“The next fiscal year I don’t have any travel at all,” he said.

In addition, about $100,000 in County Road Aid funding has been cut due to the state’s shortfall and the county’s Flex Funding has also been cut. Stilts continued that he anticipates the funding the county receives through the Rural Secondary Road Aid Program will also be cut for the upcoming fiscal year.

“Everybody is facing cuts all over,” he said.

No action was taken during the fiscal court meeting to increase taxes; however, the fiscal court did vote to approve the ordinance on second reading, adopting the county’s budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

After the fiscal court meeting, Stilts said the fiscal court has discussed increasing tax revenue by 4 percent, but added that doing so will only bring in “a very small amount.”

The occupational tax, however, if it was increased to 1 ½ percent, would generate between $300,000 to $350,000 a year.

“That would increase it that much and that would help the general fund,” he said. “The general fund is where (we) get hit hard.”

The fiscal court typically sets tax rates in August.

“We will look at it and see how much it can possibly generate, if we want to go that route,” he said. “It’s always a touchy subject when you go talking about taxes. I think some assessments aren’t where they need to be …. I don’t (have) anything to do with that.”

One cost-savings measure discussed during the fiscal court meeting was the housing of inmates. At present, Metcalfe County inmates are housed at the Barren County Detention Center in Glasgow at a cost of $40 a day.

Stilts announced during the fiscal court meeting that he had received an email from the Adair County judge-executive about housing Metcalfe County inmates at the Adair County Regional Jail in Columbia.

Adair County would charge Metcalfe County $33 a day to house its inmates, with the rate increasing by $1 for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

“We were paying $28 a day until Monroe County came on board and they said, ‘Well, we’re going to charge Monroe $36 and if we charge Monroe $36 we are going to jump Metcalfe to $36,’” Stilts said. “And then last May they raised both of us to $40 a day.”

No action was taken during Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting regarding a contract with Adair County for the housing of inmates.

Stilts received an email on Tuesday morning from the Kentucky Association of Counties about the amount of funding Metcalfe County could receive for COVID-19 expenses. The county could receive up to $342,000, but Stilts said every penny will have to go to cover the county’s expenses for the coronavirus, such as hand sanitizer, drive-thru testing and personal protective equipment.

Emory Kidd, emergency management director for the county, has been keeping up with the county’s coronavirus expenses.

“He’s been doing a great job with everybody documenting stuff because early on that’s what they wanted to do is document everything to where you could claim it then,” Stilts said. “He’s got all of that. I will be working with him on that and that’s from March to Dec. 31.”

Those funds can only be used for COVID-19 expenses and any monies not used will have to be returned, Stilts said.

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