Magistrates split over tax increase

October 05, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

As Boyle County pays bills with its savings, magistrates grapple with whether to raise payroll taxes or make deep cuts in county services.

Magistrates John Davis and Jim Ryan reluctantly support a payroll tax increase. Magistrates Phil Sammons and John Hudson are opposed to it. Magistrate Donnie Coffman is unsure. Magistrate Martin G. Curtis is in a nursing home, unavailable for comment, and has missed 16 consecutive meetings.

Judge-Executive Tony Wilder, who supports a tax increase, has suggested nearly $200,000 in cuts, starting with all funding to local nonprofits, like the senior citizens center.

The county expects to end the year with a deficit of $730,000. Next year, if all of Wilder's cuts were made, the budget would still be $500,000 short, and that's assuming more certificates of deposit are cashed.


The county has cashed a $100,000 certificate and expects to have to cash a $250,000 certificate in January to pay bills.

Wilder said that the budget is already barebones, with no projects and no frills, and that the county would be in trouble if there were an emergency. He asked magistrates to bring suggestions for cuts to the last September meeting, but few did.

Magistrate Phil Sammons suggested that the public works foreman position not be filled, and that the county contract out an engineer, instead of having one on staff. He said that as a retiree he would be happy to supervise projects in his district, and that other magistrates should do the same.

"We're going to cut all the fat before this magistrate supports a tax increase. I won't raise taxes until all the fat is cut," he said. "I represent Boyle County people, and I don't want to put any extra burden on them, even if it's $1 more a month, during these hard times We need closer supervision from every department. No overtime. Tell your people to go home. We can't afford overtime, that's how I feel."

Davis said that he wasn't in favor of cutting essential services, like the ambulance service, and that other things were just mandatory, like the jail.

"Looks like we're going to have to raise the payroll tax or cut services," he said. "If it takes a little tax raise I guess we'll have to do it, but we want to make sure that's what we have to do."

Ryan said he has reviewed the figures over and over, but he couldn't come up with any more cost-savings.

"We've been acting very conservatively," he said. "I can't see cutting personnel or services."

The county payroll tax is 0.45 percent now, which is 45 cents for every $100 earned. Ryan said he would support a raise to 0.75 percent, but no more than 0.85 percent. At 0.75 the county would break even, and at 0.85 there would be a $300,000 surplus.

"If we don't show and exercise fiscal responsibility and leadership now, it'd be like a submarine without a periscope," Ryan said. "If we were being liberal with money that'd be something else."

Hudson said that he wanted Wilder to suggest more cuts.

"I don't think we'll be in debt next year," he said. "I'd rather see (Wilder's) recommendation I'm not supporting any kind of tax increase It's a difficult situation and these are difficult times."

Coffman said he didn't see "a whole lot things we could cut," but that he doesn't know if he supports a tax increase.

He said although he knows that there are not enough cuts that could be made to balance the budget; he is not in favor of raising taxes right now.

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