Fall is officially here. The Woolly Worm Festival, though soggy, went down as another successful celebration of all things Lee County. Thanks to all who work so hard each year to bring the festival to life.
Yesterday afternoon, the ambulance service had an unexpected visitor, a nice eight point buck wandered in to check out their living quarters. After sticking around for a while and putting the entire courthouse staff on alert, as animal control officer, Emory Crawford, was setting up to dart him, the buck left the building, scattered onlookers, leaped over EMA Director, Jon Allen, and headed for the woods.
The Recreation Center discussion will continue soon. We have been in touch with the Secretary of State and Federal Government, when we get the nonprofit reinstated, the community will be given plenty of time to prepare to attend the meeting.
Last week at the Beattyville/Lee County Chamber of Commerce meeting three members volunteered to serve on the Beattyville/Lee County Tourism Board. Mayor Scott Jackson and I will interview the volunteers and pick one to serve on the board. The member will have a three year term.
With the election coming up, there has been a lot of discussion about the impact if the Prison closes again. It recently reopened and made budget management much easier for Beattyville and created more income for the community. In a nutshell, here are the community benefits to having the Corrections Corp of America managed prison in Beattyville and Lee County. Beattyville collects $65,000 in payroll tax for the 200 plus employees in the prison annually, then there is $143,347.08 in Sewer Waste Water, $179,183.88 for the water bill, and $4,608 for solid waste removal. This translates to $392,138.96 annually. The Annual tangible property tax is $36,000 and Real Estate is $50,000 for Beattyville on top of the $224,835.55 paid to Lee County. That’s a total of $310,833.55 in taxes. They are the single biggest tax payer in Lee County and provide 41 jobs for Lee County workers while directly contributing $702,992.51 to Beattyville and Lee County tax bases and services. Speaking with Beattyville Mayor, Scott Jackson, he said, “Closing the prison would be devastating to Beattyville.” This gives us something to think about as we decide the direction we want to go for Lee County and the region. Though Lee County benefits from the prison being here, the employee break down is 25% come from Lee County, 20% from Breathitt county, 13% Owsley County, 11% Wolfe County, 7% Jackson County, 6% Powell County, 4% each from Perry and Clay. This is money that is going back to support families in other counties.
There have been no meetings of the Red River Gorge Economic Development Board or developments shared this week. The community will be informed of any changes.
Last week I spent three days in Louisville at the Kentucky Association of Counties Conference with Magistrate Dennis Pelfrey. This forum brings together elected officials from around the commonwealth to look at state policies, meet businesses and organizations that can assist local government, and get a chance to discuss the trials and tribulations of managing local communities. There are also some great opportunities to learn how others are addressing common problems.
One of the sessions was about anticipated bills that will be put forward in the upcoming legislative session. Though there were many brought up two received the majority of discussion, changing the way the motor fuel tax is determined and increasing revenue from sales tax.
The motor fuel tax issue is a big one, but let me try to put it in sharable terms. Currently the Kentucky tax we pay at the pump is .26 a gallon, which was changed in 2015. It used to be tied to the whole sale price of gas. As gas prices rose Kentucky won, but gas prices were falling. New automobile technology like electric cars are also impacting revenue. Using data from before the change, it is estimated Kentucky lost about 180 million in tax revenues since 2015 and will lose a pool of credits, estimated to be around $200,000,000 like the Toll offset credit in July. That will result in even less money to meet federal matching fund requirements to get federal money for roads and bridges. This loss has resulted in less money for Rural Secondary, Metropolitan Streets, and County Road Aid, roadway and bridge projects. It is expected there will be a bill to raise that tax.
On the sales tax front, there seems to be quite a bit of hesitancy to increase the state sales tax or add any more things to be taxed, but there does seem to be a growing amount of support to change Kentucky law to allow for local option sales taxes. This would give local government more opportunities to raise revenue based on the desires of the local population.
There is also a push to have local pharmacies exempted from the Pharmacy Benefit Manager program, which allows a national pharmacy to work with Medicaid and Managed Care Organizations to negotiate and manage prescription prices for all pharmacies. This is perceived as a threat to the existence of local pharmacy providers.