Struggling to survive, Junction City passes tax

September 12, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

JUNCTION CITY - The City Council passed a $50 occupational license fee and a 1 percent payroll tax Thursday, and afterwards some residents called for the city to dissolve.

When asked by residents, council members said they didn't know whether the $65,000 the taxes are expected to raise, without Penn Ventilation, would be enough to pull the city out of its financial crisis. The factory recently announced it will close and 85 people will lose their jobs.

It's the first time in 12 years that the city has raised taxes.

"Is (the tax) going to get you in the black?" said Jimmy Cutter, head of Concerned Citizens for Junction City.

"We don't know," said Council member Roberta Zeller. "Do you want to close the doors, Jimmy?"

"I'm sorry Roberta, but if you don't know, then close the doors," Cutter said.

Other residents said that dissolving the city should be a last resort.


The cuts to the city's budget that residents asked for have not been made. Mayor G.G. Harmon plans to meet with the police department to talk about cuts on Wednesday.

"It's time to quit pussyfooting around or we'll go broke," Cutter said, asking the city to make cuts.

Council members Connie Vernon, Zeller and Wane Wesley voted for the tax and council members Dewayne Taylor and Jim Douglas against it. Council member Brad Murphy is still recovering from injuries sustained in a house fire he helped fight here on Sunday.

Harmon said he wanted to go on record opposing the tax.

"I want you to go on record suggesting something we can do," Vernon said.

Vernon said that she and Zeller have tried to get the council together for a workshop to discuss cuts to the budget, but that it never happens.

Previous suggestions have been to cut the police force by two officers.

"If I knew for sure that (city employees) were going to have jobs, I'd say tax them, but why tax if people are still going to lose their jobs?" said Taylor.

Police Chief Jimmy Gipson said that the police officers go day-to-day wondering if they'll have jobs.

Several council members pointed out that Officer Anthony Pinkston, who helped evacuate a burning apartment complex Sunday, is the newest to the force and might lose his job.

"If we had less police and firefighters then we might have had a worse fire than we did the other night," Vernon said.

Pinkston's wife, Sheila, said she had spent five months worrying about her husband's job.

"Is this the way you treat people who do a good job?" she said. "I've lived here all my life, but I'm not going to stay in a place without officers, fire department. We already don't have EMS."

Harmon said that he now has Boyle County inmates doing the cleaning and it will save the city $1,200 a year and will only ask the police chief, director of public works and utility clerk to be at meetings if they are needed.

Vernon said another possibility is to cut employee benefits.

Gipson suggested people who violate city ordinances, like unmown grass and junk cars, come before the council and be fined instead of going to court. The money then would go to the city.

Junction City's mounting financial problems are related to high attorney fees from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's lawsuit to recover lead cleanup costs here and rising costs of employee benefits, Harmon said.

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