Harrodsburg City Commission Votes To Suspend Restaurant Tax

Commission Moves To Ease Coronavirus Economic Impact

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

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The Harrodsburg City Commission took action Monday night to protect the city and to protect local businesses against the worst effects of the continuing coronavirus shutdown.

First, city commissioners voted to allow local restaurants—which have been forced to shut down their dining areas since Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order last week—to not pay their restaurant taxes for March and April to the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Tourist Commission. The resolution, which passed unanimously, also bars the Tourist Commission from assessing late penalties for taxes due for February.

Restaurant owners are still required to submit forms showing their gross sales on food and alcohol for March and April.

In the resolution, the city is also urging the Tourist Commission to refund to existing restaurants taxes collected from December 2019 to February 2020.

The city commission will also consider extending the resolution on a monthly basis starting in May.

Reached for comment, Tourist Committee Executive Director Karen P. Hackett said they had not received any communication from the city.

“Until the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Tourist Commission board has the opportunity to review and discuss the city’s resolution, we will continue to focus energies into assisting the community to stay abreast of the latest COVID-19 developments and will help to promote the continued patronage of local tourism-related businesses,” Hackett said. “The challenges we face are unparalleled, but we are in this unprecedented situation together.”

She said no special-called meeting has been scheduled.

On Monday night, the commissioners also voted to extend the deadline for businesses to pay the net-profit and payroll tax to July 15, although the filing deadline remains April 15.

Commissioners also approved declaring a state of emergency for the city until “such time as the COVID-19 pandemic no longer exists” or until the commission votes to rescind the resolution.

The commissions approved the Families First Coronavirus Response Act for city workers eligible for additional leave.

Under a new federal law recently passed to assist with the impact of the coronavirus, city workers may be eligible for two weeks of paid leave at their regular rate of pay if they meet certain qualifications. To qualify, they must be subject to a federal, state or local quarantine; are advised  by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine, experience symptoms related to the coronavirus and are seeking a diagnosis; are caring for an individual who is under quarantine; are caring for their child if the school or place of care is closed; or are experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the federal government.

In addition, workers who have been employed for 30 days or more and are unable to work or work from home are eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave if the worker’s child is unable to attend school due to a public health emergency.

Under the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act, the first 10 days of leave are unpaid, although employees may be eligible to take emergency paid sick leave or other paid leave at the same time. Beginning on the third week, full-time employees are paid at two-thirds or their regular rate while part-time workers or those who work irregular schedules are eligible to be paid based on the average number of hours worked in the six month period prior to taking their leave. When workers return to work, they return to their prior position, according to the resolution.

“If they’re sick, we want them to stay home,” said Mayor Art Freeman.

Following the state government’s example, city employees are currently working staggered schedules so that no more than half the staff is working at any time, the mayor said.

While reviewing the emergency response plans with Harrodsburg Fire Chief Scott Hammons and Police Chief Brian Allen, Mayor Freeman said they are urging workers in every department to honor social distancing guidelines and stay at least six feet away from each other, although that was not always possible.

Freeman also presented commissioners with copies of the Harrodsburg-Mercer County Planning And Zoning Commission’s goals and objectives. The mayor asked the commissioners to study the recommendations before voting on them at the next meeting.

In other business, the Harrodsburg City Commission:

• Accepted a letter of resignation from Levi Henderson, supervisor of the water treatment plant. Henderson’s resignation is effective on April 6.

• Hired Christopher Link as an officer with the Harrodsburg Police Department at $15.50 per hour pending a background check, drug screens and a consultation with the retirement system. The commissioners also voted to hire Savannah Caldwell as a part-time dispatcher at $11 an hour pending background check and drug screen.

• Voted to transfer John Elliott from the cemetery department to the street department effective March 24.

• Gave first reading to ordinance changing regulations concerning the city cemetery.  Among other things, the ordinance would raise the cost of perpetual care per grave from $250 to $400. The city commissioner will give second reading to the proposed ordinances at their next meeting on Monday, April 13, at 6 p.m.

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