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Magistrates OK tax hike

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By Jay Cason

The Anderson County Fiscal Court approved a new tax Tuesday morning that will increase property taxes $16 per $100,000 of assessed value.

By a 5-2 vote, the fiscal court created a taxing district for the Anderson County Extension Service, giving it authority to levy taxes against real and personal property.

The tax rate is set at 16 cents per $100 assessed value.

The new tax has been debated for the past two months as magistrates haggled over what the rate should be and how much rent the county will charge the Extension for the building it occupies in the county park.

The new tax will provide about $210,000 in operating funds for the Extension which, until now, has received about $100,000 a year from the fiscal court, along with smaller amounts from the Anderson County Board of Education and Lawrenceburg City Council.

The Extension will now pay rent at $10 per square foot on the 4,000 square feet it occupies. From that $40,000, the fiscal court will spend about $25,000 each year for the building's utilities. It will also retain the $100,000 it gives the Extension each year. Combined, the move gives the fiscal court an additional $125,000 each year. Magistrates previously said they wanted to put at least a portion of that money toward debt on the county park, along with using it to pave county roads.

Approving the new tax came with numerous reservations cited, even from some magistrates who voted in favor of the recommendation.

Magistrate Juretta wells asked Roger Sparrow, an Extension Service district supervisor, if the University of Kentucky could offer additional financial support. Sparrow said the university could not add to its already significant contribution as its budget had been trimmed by the Kentucky legislature by 6 percent.

Wells said she was concerned that some small businesses would have to pay hundreds of dollars in extra taxes during the present difficult economic climate.

"I've only had a couple of people contact me who are violently opposed to it (extension tax district)'" said Magistrate David Ruggles. "But a lot of people have asked me, 'Why now?' with the economy the way it is."

Magistrate John Wayne Conway, who was on the court in 1982 when the Anderson County Extension Office was established, said, "These same questions were asked in 1982. And the economy was bad then, too.

"I don't want to impose a hardship on anybody, but I've been for this since 1982."

After it was mentioned that all but 13 of Kentucky's 120 counties already have a local extension service taxing district, local attorney Betty Springate said,

"What would it cost for the court to go to circuit court and ask for a declaratory judgment? Just because a bunch of counties do it doesn't make it right."

Springate said that a current attorney general's opinion states that local extension service boards have the power to set their tax rate, not local fiscal courts, as most fiscal courts believe. (A court in Trigg County, which has no authority in Anderson County, ruled that fiscal courts do have the authority to set the rates.)

After Springate's remarks, Magistrate Larry Smith asked, "Are you on retainer right now representing someone who is against this tax?" Smith said he had "disturbing" phone calls that caused him to ask the question.

Springate responded that she could not divulge that information.

Judge-Executive Steve Cornish said the extension service does a great job in the county but could not support the extension service taxing district, given the current economic conditions.

"We did 12 foreclosures last weekend," said Cornish, who works as an auctioneer.

"I have not gotten one call in support of this," added Magistrate Jason Denny.

"The fact that we have checks and balances in section two of the ordinance and since we didn't take the 4 percent increase (in property taxes), I support this because it's about a wash," Ruggles said.

Voting for the extension service taxing authority were magistrates, Conway, Ruggles, Wells, Smith, and Magistrate Forrest Stevens. Denny and Cornish voted no.

In other business, fiscal court passed an ordinance that provides penalties for contractors who repeatedly need re-inspections to bring structures they are building up to code.

The court also approved a request to re-name Dee Goodlett Road; met the new county health department director, Brandon Hurley; appointed Joey Puckett of American Founders Bank to the Anderson County Tourism Commission; and approved the local ambulance service director's report.

Re-inspections

According to Dean Lickliter, county building code inspector, some contractors who request that he re-inspect new houses that didn't meet code during his first inspection aren't prepared when he arrives at their request for a follow-up inspection.

"I've been as many as six times to one place," Lickliter said.

Lickliter proposed that penalties be imposed for excessive trips for re-inspections, citing cost of fuel and his wasted time as rationale.

At the recommendation of Cornish, the court voted 5-2, to charge $50 per re-inspection visit after two "free" re-inspections.

Dee Goodlett Road

"Since we're the only house on it, I suggest that Dee Goodlett Road be renamed," said Ron Wendlandt. Wendlandt recommended that the road be named Bostonville Road in recognition of its history.

"I'm the one who suggested Dee Goodlett Road," said Magistrate Conway, who represents the area where the road is located. "The only thing I would go along with is a change to Boston-Goodlett Road. That would cover both families that lived on the road for an eternity."

The rest of the court unanimously approved Conway's suggestion.

Ambulance service

County ambulance service Director Bart Powell announced he has added two local men on a part-time basis to the county ambulance service.

"Travis Holt is one of them," Powell said. "He made four phone calls about working as an EMT while on tour in Iraq. He was with the Marines.

"We've also hired Garrett Taylor, who is also a veteran with the city fire department."