Commonwealth Journal

Local News

March 9, 2013

Magistrates concerned about new tax structure

Somerset —  

A new occupational tax structure that would have the City of Somerset claiming a larger portion of the revenue has Pulaski County officials concerned about who will ultimately feel the effects.
“I think our goal is to be fair with everybody and do what’s best for the people in the county and not a select group of people, whether that be in the city or the county,” said Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock during a special-called Pulaski County Fiscal Court meeting on Friday.
The county and city entered into an agreement recently that would establish a new occupational tax system – much of which funds a large portion of county government’s budget – after the city announced that they were dealing with a funding shortfall with Somerset-Pulaski County EMS.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler announced in January that the shortfall was more than $700,000 and that soon grew to around $1 million, according to Girdler. The city then approached county officials, asking that the county cover that shortfall as per a 1995 inter-local agreement that had established the funding structure for EMS.
The agreement appointed the city as “overseer” of EMS, with the city funding whatever part of the EMS budget left over after occupational tax money was applied. Pulaski County Treasurer Joan Isaacs has said EMS currently receives around $1.2 million yearly from the occupational tax revenue.
But in the event of a shortfall, the responsibility moves back to the county, according to the agreement. Girdler had suggested the city would move forward with claiming its portion of the occupational tax as a means to cover any shortfalls in the future.
“Originally, he (Mayor Girdler) was going to take 100 percent of the occupational tax generated in the city,” Bullock said Friday.
The city’s chunk of the total occupational tax pie has been estimated to be around 75 percent. A hit that significant to the county’s revenue would cripple it, according to county officials.

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