Commonwealth Journal

News Live

October 20, 2013

Magistrate: If Somerset takes 60 percent of occupational tax, it will ‘kill Pulaski County

Somerset — Pulaski County officials looked toward a proposed “unified” city-county government as a way to keep the City of Somerset from grabbing the lion’s share of occupational tax money.

In hitching their wagon to that premise, however, they might have sped up the inevitable.

Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler cited the county’s willingness to explore a “unified” government as the reason why the city is moving toward taking over 60 percent of the county’s occupational tax money beginning in the summer of 2014.

County officials are not buying it.

“The mayor is using the united government study as an excuse,” said Community Development Director Tiffany Bourne. “The fact is, he was going to (take the occupational tax money) regardless. I don’t think this is about the united government issue at all.”

Bourne admitted that when the threat of the city taking the bulk of the tax money came up earlier this year during a high-profile squabble over EMS funding, “legislators” suggested that the only remedy might be a move toward a city-county government.

“There’s no legal recourse and we don’t want to sit on our hands and do nothing,” Bourne said.

Pulaski Fiscal Court agreed to partially fund a study on a “unified” government through a community group called Somerset-Pulaski County United. Somerset City Council, on the other hand, gave a responding “no” when asked to participate.

“Just because we went along with the study, it doesn’t mean we support a unified government,” said Pulaski County magistrate Glenn Maxey. “We don’t know what the study says yet. If nothing else, maybe some aspects of the study will help us improve things in Pulaski County.”

Pulaski County magistrate Mike Strunk said he thought the EMS agreement that was pounded out at the eleventh hour earlier this year was a positive sign toward a renewed relationship between the city and the county.

“I thought maybe we were moving in the right direction, but I think (Girdler) was setting us up for this,” Strunk said. “He hung the occupational tax over our heads then, too. This is what he intended to do all the time.”

Pulaski County Treasurer Joan Isaacs said if the City of Somerset takes the 60 percent — which would increase its occupational haul from $1.4 million to over $7 million — the county would be “crippled.”

“You can’t lose $7 million out of your budget,” Isaacs said. “When you lose that kind of money, you have to make cuts across the board. Huge cuts.”

What does that mean to Pulaski County residents? According to county officials: Reduced services and higher taxes.

“There are 28 counties in the state that have an ambulance tax,” Isaacs said. “We’ve been able to fund EMS through occupational tax.”

Now that the county has agreed to pay the city $1 million a year for EMS, an ambulance tax is a real possibility, if the city takes the additional $7 million from the till.

“How else could we pay the city for EMS?” Maxey said. ”If the mayor does this, it will mean raising taxes for everyone — including residents of the city.”

The occupational tax shift could certainly result in a higher property tax for Pulaski County citizens as well. Right now, Pulaski’s property tax rates are the lowest in the region at 5.1 percent. Compare that to Wayne (12.4 percent), Laurel (6.2 percent), Russell (6.7 percent), McCreary (9.5 percent) and Fayette (8 percent) and it appears Pulaski residents have had it pretty well.

“What else can we do if the city takes away 30 percent of our budget?” Maxey said.

If the county’s share of occupational tax money slides to just $4 million, the effects on services would also be far-reaching.

In 2013, the occupational tax money was divided as follows:

• $1.7 million for the road department.

• $509,000 for the Pulaski Detention Center.

• $1.1 million for industrial development.

• $1.2 million for the 911 Center.

• $1.2 million for EMS.

• $1.4 million to the City of Somerset.

• $113,000 to the City of Ferguson.

• $81,000 to the City of Burnside.

• $81,000 to the City of Science Hill.

• $41,000 to the City of Eubank.

“The other cities in Pulaski County depend on their cut of the occupational tax money,” said Strunk. “(Girdler) told me the other cities are on their own as far as he was concerned. He said he wasn’t sharing anything with them.”

“Ferguson is in my district and (Ferguson Mayor Allen Dobbs) told me they could not make it without their occupational tax money,” Maxey added.

Pulaski also has a myriad of roads to maintain. It’s unclear how much would, or could, be trimmed from the road department’s occupational-tax funded $1.7 million budget.

“We have the most roads of anyone in the state ... but we have some of the best roads in the state,” said Isaacs. “All of that is a result of occupational tax money. If that money goes, what do we do?”

Girdler claims the county has refused to negotiate the issue in good faith.

County officials say that just isn’t the case.

“We’ve tried to talk to him, but he has made it clear that it’s his way or nothing else,” said Pulaski County magistrate Jason Turpen. “He’s made it pretty clear that he isn’t willing to try to find a solution that would be good for all Pulaski County citizens.

“We don’t want to hurt anyone in the city — we represent the entire county, including people who live in the City of Somerset,” Turpen added.

“We’ve met with (Girdler) four or five times and nothing is ever accomplished,” Strunk said. “It’s his way or no way at all.

“And I don’t hang any of this on the city councilors,” Strunk added. “This is all on the mayor.”

Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock is dealing with a “serious illness” that has him hospitalized and was unavailable for comment. But Maxey said Bullock is up to speed.

Two city councilors, Jim Rutherford and Jerry Burnett, told the Commonwealth Journal they are in favor of rescinding the ordinance that would allow Somerset to take the additional tax money from the county.

At this stage of the game, that may be county government’s best hope for averting disaster.

“If the city goes through with this, it will kill Pulaski County,” Maxey said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Text Only
News Live
  • Elaine Wilson.jpg Law targeted local board member

    A local official currently serving on multiple boards capable of levying taxes could find herself having to resign from one of those entities due to a recently-passed law in Frankfort.

    April 14, 2014 2 Photos

  • carrie dixon-wiese.jpg Local housing facility subject of $349,000 lawsuit

    A local housing facility is the subject of a lawsuit in U.S. Eastern District Court, with several major entities named as defendants — though the Somerset city attorney notes that’s actually more for their protection.
    The defendants listed included the City of Somerset, Somerset Independent Board of Education, and Pulaski County government, as well as the company Somerset East Mt. Vernon Associates, Ltd.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brenzel and LCRH sign cmyk.jpg Brenzel steps down as LCRH CEO

    Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital (LCRH) has announced that CEO Mark Brenzel has decided to step down from the top leadership position.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Science Hill elementary students promote recycling

    For one group of Science Hill Independent students, taking out the trash isn’t something they avoid.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Last rescue adopted pic.jpg Last of dogs rescued from Nancy kennel is adopted

    The last of 27 dogs housed at a Louisville animal rescue center after they were taken from a western Pulaski County puppy mill in a January raid has found a permanent home.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mayor Girdler.jpg Bill puts freeze on occupational tax funds

    An addition to the late-passed Kentucky Transportation Cabinet budget contains an Easter egg of sorts that could have a substantial impact on Pulaski County — although Somerset’s mayor is downplaying it.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pulaski gets small share of road money

    Some $200 million worth of road-building projects in Pulaski County during the past decade likely is the reason this county got only a tiny share in the two-year road plan hammered out by the General Assembly during the session that adjourned late Tuesday.

    April 17, 2014

  • LaDonna Hurd.jpg Local firefighter dies from injuries suffered in fall at skating rink

    The community’s move to rally around a local volunteer firefighter, nurse, and single mother injured while roller skating has taken on a more tragic note.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • LAKE-FISHING FOTO.JPG Rising lake levels are improving area fishing conditions

    The rising level of Lake Cumberland is covering banks that have been bare for seven years and increasing habitat for game fish such as bass, bluegill and crappie.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ebenstein, Jacob.jpg Local man receives 12 1/2 years in DUI death of teen

    An entire courtroom on Thursday was moved to tears by parents who spoke of the loss of their 19-year-old son during a sentencing for the man who pleaded guilty in his death.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

News Live
AP Video
Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide