City OKs $16.8-Million Budget For New Fiscal Year
Update: The parcel fee ordinance failed to pass for lack of a motion at a special-called meeting of the Mercer County Fiscal Court. For full details on that meeting and the city’s response, check out next week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald.
A controversial parcel fee to fund E911 services in Mercer County has passed a key hurdle, as the City of Harrodsburg Board Of Commissioners voted 3–1 in favor of the fee at a special called meeting on Thursday, June 27.
The parcel fee, which has been revised from $60 to $40 per lot, still needs to be passed by the Burgin City Council and the Mercer County Fiscal Court. The fiscal court voted on the fee at a special-called meeting on Tuesday, but the results were not available by press time.
Last week, the owners of multiple parcels of land attended meetings of the city commission and the fiscal court to complain that they felt the parcel fee is unfair. On Monday night, the commissioners tabled a vote on the fee until they could look at increasing vehicle taxes, but on Thursday’s special-called meeting, they moved forward with the parcel fee.
While those opposed to the fee have accused the government of moving too fast, officials say they have been looking at finding some way to fund E911 call services for over a year.
“We’ve beat this horse to death over the last year,” said Mayor Art Freeman Thursday. Freeman listed some of the alternatives presented by opponents, including a fee on water meters and a tax on motor vehicles. Freeman said the legality of a fee on water meters—which has been imposed by Jessamine and Garrard Counties—is still being decided by the courts. As for a new tax on motor vehicles, Freeman said they’d have to tax boats as well, and that may not be allowed under state law.
“This is our only sustainable alternative at this time,” the mayor said.
Commissioner Scott Moseley, who on Monday voted to table the measure, moved to approve it, with Commissioner Jack Coleman seconding the motion. Moseley, Coleman and Mattingly voted yes, with Freeman, citing the vote tally, abstaining.
The only one who voted against the parcel fee was Commissioner Marvin “Bubby” Isham. Isham said he wanted to see the parcel fee tabled for a year, and run the 911 call center on $485,000 that had been collected on land lines and still remained in accounts.
The other commissioners objected, saying that would not cover the telecommunications budget, which is over $1.1-million this year. The rest would have to come from the city and county’s general funds.
“I don’t think our budget could stand to pay for this,” said Commissioner Mattingly. The commissioners cut $750,000 from their budget this year to cover unbudgeted expenses from last year.
Legally, the money has to be kept in stipulated accounts. Isham said it was all taxpayers’ money, but the other commissioners said it’s not legal to spend restricted funds.
“I think the public is not going to object because we all need 911,” Mattingly said. “You’ve got to think what we’re getting and what it could cost the city.”
In other business, the board of commissioners:
- Gave second reading on ordinance 2019-14, setting the budget for fiscal year 2019–20. The $16.8-million budget goes into effect July 1. Commissioner Moseley moved to earmark $5,000 from miscellaneous specifically to Anderson-Dean Community Park to build an open shelter, also known as a shade/shelter for Kendyl and Friends Playground. Anderson-Dean won’t get the money until the city is provided with an invoice for the shelter. The city is also receiving municipal aid road funds from the state. Harrodsburg will receive $187,000 for paving and road salt.
- Gave second reading to ordinance 2019-15, which increases water rates, and ordinance 2019-16, which increases sewer rates. City officials will meet with municipal customers to discuss water rates, according to Mayor Freeman.
The next meeting of the Harrodsburg City Commission will be on Monday, July 8, at 6 p.m. at the Harrodsburg City Hall.
For a parcel fee explainer, check out page 2A in this week’s edition of the Harrodsburg Herald. Click here to subscribe.