Dozens protest Garrard tax

August 13, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - The same magistrate who made the motion for a 1 percent occupational tax called for its elimination at Tuesday's Garrard Fiscal Court meeting.

After hearing from dozens of people opposed to the tax that took effect July 1, Magistrate Joe Leavell made a motion to sell the county farm to help pay off the debt at Garrard County Memorial Hospital and its Long Term Care Facility.

Leavell said the farm's sale could bring the county $450,000, enough to make payments on the Kentucky Association of Counties loan this year and buy time to consider other options for paying off all of the hospital debt.

Leavell's motion died for a lack of a second, though.

Judge-Executive E.J. Hasty said the farm is needed for collateral purposes, but Leavell said the county is not like a business. "People are the collateral," he said.


The farm, located off of Perry Rogers Road, holds a tobacco base for the county. "It's not making anything," said Leavell.

Hasty said the county gets between $2,000 and $3,000, sometimes as much as $5,000, from the farm each year.

"Why are we keeping the farm when it only makes $2,000 to $3,000?" someone from the audience shouted out.

Woolsey, Minteer speak out

Among those speaking out against the tax were Garrard County school Superintendent Ray Woolsey and Allison Abrasives President Jim Minteer.

Woolsey said almost 25 percent of the tax base comes from school employees. He said teachers received a raise this year that the tax is taking away. "The teachers are very upset," he said. Woolsey presented the court with a petition that he said teachers did on their own.

Woolsey expressed concern that $150,000 of the income generated by the tax is above and beyond what will be used to pay for the hospital's debt.

Later in the meeting, County Attorney Jeff Moss said that the occupational tax is for the county's general fund, and that one of the expenses coming out of that fund is the hospital. Magistrate Marvin Conn asked if that could be changed, and Moss said it could be by amending the budget.

Resident Leticia Smith gave a petition to the court that she said was signed by 754 people, most of which she said work in Garrard County. "I am opposed to this tax," she said. "It is discriminatory."

Magistrates discussed several alternatives to the occupational tax, such as enacting an insurance premium tax or raising the property tax.

Hasty said a 6 percent insurance tax would generate $415,000 to $480,000 a year, according to Department of Local Government figures. But he said that would only affect people who live outside Lancaster city limits.

Leavell said he likes the possibility of an insurance tax. "Everybody pays something," he said. "Just about everyone has a vehicle." But he admits it still wouldn't be fair. "There is no good tax," he said.

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