In March 5 IssueBy John ThompsonNews-Register Reporter
The first reading of an ordinance to increase the occupational tax to one percent in Russell County took place at a special called meeting of the fiscal court on Wednesday morning.
The new rate will rise from the current .25 percent to be paid "by persons and business entities conducting businesses, occupations and professions within county of Russell, Kentucky."
The entirety of the proposed ordinance will appear in the newspaper before passage. It is to have its second reading at the regularly scheduled meeting of the fiscal court on March 14 at 6 p.m.
There are provisions within the ordinance that exempt certain entities that contribute fees such as banks, which pay fees in another manner, Kentucky National Guard members for active duty or training, public service corporations that pay an ad valorem tax on property, among others.
A cap of $800 is proposed on the tax, meaning any income over $80,000 will no longer be taxed at the one percent rate. This cap continues the practice that was underway with the .25 percent occupational tax, which was then capped at $200; the tax no longer applying to any income over $80,000.
A one percent occupational tax is estimated to bring in about $1.8 million in revenue to the county, up from the $450,000 that the .25 percent tax is estimated to provide for fiscal year 2010-2011.
Judge-Executive Gary Robertson said that as a part of his budget he was going to propose that county employees contribute 25 percent toward their health care plans as part of a strategy to both get the budget under control and keep from reducing the number of employees. Robertson said he had talked with the sheriff's office, the county clerk's office and the ambulance board about getting on board with the proposal in increasing employee contribution to their health care plans.
There seemed to be some general concern among the magistrates with the proposal, particularly with the employee contribution to health care. It's approximated that the savings on this item to the county would be around $80,000. Further discussion of the budget will take place before the required final passage and submission to the state by June 1, 2011.
Robertson provided the magistrates with his preliminary outline for a budget for the fiscal year 2011-2012 for main expenditures; the main expenses being in the form of expenses/receipts in the general fund, the jail funding and dispatch funding.
Proposed cuts in the budget and tax increase are an attempt to offset a projected budget shortfall of approximately $980,000 for the fiscal year for the three funds. The figure arrived at is a reflection of a reduction in income from state offices moving from the courthouse to the state mandated judicial center. The loss from renting the office space within the county owned courthouse is approximately $80,000 a year. Additional funding is also required of the county for upkeep responsibilities of the new judicial center.
The budget also reflects an estimated shortfall in tax receipts, a number arrived at using the shortfall in tax receipts in the current fiscal year in real estate, real property, vehicle was less than anticipated, approximately $30,000 less than expected from the Sheriff's office and over $5,000 from the County Clerk's Office; a reflection of the state of the economy.
The county will face a jail bond payment of $280,000 in December, as well as possible unforeseen expenses related to getting a new jail up and running.
The court voted to give Judge Robertson the ability to pursue a loan strategy that would keep the county solvent through the current fiscal year. Robertson said he would try to get a loan that would allow the loan balance to carry over into the next fiscal year without receiving a reprimand during the next yearly audit by the state. The county is looking at a budget shortfall of approximately $191,000 for the current fiscal year.
The court voted to pay two bills; one to the city of Russell Springs for city tax on the Shiloh Motel in the amount of $540 and a bill to Somerset Utilities for two months of gas services for $2,933.29.
County Clerk Lisha Popplewell presented a check for $885.42 as final settlement for fees for the 2010 year out of her office.