Garrard selling county farm

September 10, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - A call by a handful of Garrard County laborers to put a deadline on the recently enacted occupational tax increase started discussions about selling the county farm.

The fiscal court has now agreed to declare the farm surplus, sell it, and use the money earned to help pay off the $4.5 million Kentucky Association of Counties loan the county used to pay off hospital debt.

The farm of 147.5 acres currently holds a tobacco base and results in about $2,000 to $5,000 a year in revenue for the county.

The occupational tax was increased from 1 percent to 2 percent to pay off the debt, but magistrates also agreed in May to revert the tax back to 1 percent once a new tax could be levied on insurance.


Judge-executive E.J. Hasty was about to end Tuesday's public portion of the regular meeting and convene the court in executive session, when Linda Randolph, a woman in the audience, asked if "there was going to be any more talk of just making the (occupational) tax a one year deal? This is an unfair tax it's a pretty good chunk out of our checks," she continued.

What followed was about 90 minutes of discussion between the court and audience members over the tax, selling the county farm, and of other revenue options.

Request to use all of occupational tax money for loan

Real estate agent Cliff-Ed Irvin, repeating a call made by many in the standing-room-only audience at the August meeting, asked the court to use all the money generated by the increase in occupational taxes for the loan. Currently, all the tax money goes into the county's general fund, with all but about $150,000 of the increased amount used to pay on the loan.

"Can we get a motion to that effect?" asked Ron Devrick, controller for Allison Abrasives, among the half-dozen laborers in the audience.

Magistrate Cedar Foley made a motion to "that effect," which prompted murmuring among the magistrates which was in-audible for many in the courtroom. "We can't hear what they're discussing. Don't we have a right to hear what they're saying?" asked a woman in the audience.

County Attorney Jeff Moss said that the court anticipated collecting an additional $450,000 from the new tax, with the court budgeting just over $300,000 each year for the hospital debt. All the tax money goes into the general fund, he said.

County Treasurer Louise Robinson then looked into the audience and said, "You are not understanding." She said the county is in debt $200,000 from last year because of the hospital, and that all the occupational tax money is needed for the general fund. "We borrowed from Peter to pay Paul," she said. "I won't sign checks if no money is in the bank."

Earlier in the meeting, the court voted to keep the automobile tax at 7.6 percent instead of raising it 4 percent to bring in an additional $16,000.

Vehicle tax raised by 4 percent

Jim Minteer, president of Allison Abrasives, questioned the court's decision in not raising the automobile tax but instead keeping the $450,000 occupational tax. "Is the fiscal court afraid of raising the automobile tax?" he asked. Later in the meeting, the court did revert its decision and agreed to increase the vehicle tax by 4 percent.

Magistrate Joe Leavell said it was in the minutes from an earlier court meeting that the court agreed to take off the occupational tax in July of 2004. But a check of those records by Moss showed that the court only agreed to roll the tax from 2 percent to 1 percent once a tax was levied on insurance.

Leavell said the court should adopt a resolution to drop the occupational tax in December 2004, sell the county farm, and put the money from the sale of the farm into the bank.

Cedar Foley made a motion to sell the farm and apply it to the KACO debt. Larry Teater seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously. No action was taken on the occupational tax, although Leavell said he thinks the tax should be rolled back in December 2004.

Realtor Ricky Sutton told the court that he estimates the county could receive at least $300,000 from the sale of the farm. He said that amount alone could take five years off the 28-year KACO loan because most, if not all, of that would go toward interest. "You would save $18,000 interest a month for five years," he said. "It's a no-brainer to sell it," he said.

Hasty said the court will auction off the farm and will discuss the pending sale at its next meeting.

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