Fiscal Court Hears New Tax Rates
Officials at the local and state level are looking at what can be done traffic around the Mercer County Schools. On Monday, Aug. 29, a meeting was held with representatives from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, State Rep. Kim King, State Sen. Amanda Bledsoe, Sheriff Ernie Kelty, Mercer County Schools, the Mercer County road department, the Mercer County Fiscal Court and the City of Harrodsburg.
Officials say they’ve received phone calls and emails about traffic concerns on Moberly and Tapp Roads, especially after a serious accident the first week of school. Harrodsburg Mayor Sam Carr said KYTC is recommending the city and county fund a traffic flow study.
“It’s kind of personal to me,” Carr said Monday. He said he’d been involved in an accident Industry Road and Bohon 16 years previously.
Officials are concerned about possible upcoming changes in traffic once the proposed new elementary school and industrial park are completed. “Five years from now we don’t want to look back and say why didn’t we analyze this?” Carr said.
While there are problems the city can handle now, such as striping and replacing signs, Carr said long term planning is needed.
“I don’t think we’re going to solve it overnight,” Carr said. It’s also going to require cooperation at the local and state level. Moberly and Tapp Roads are currently city maintained roads, others are maintained by the county and the state.
“It was a very good meeting,” said Judge-Executive Sarah Steele. “It was nice to have that many people at the same time.”
Sheriff Kelty took the opportunity to bring up the intersection of 1160 and US 127 due to the multiple fatalities, including two pedestrians and two vehicle accident. Kelty said the state should install blinking caution signs.
“They did say they would take a look at that,” Kelty said.
That’s not the only area requesting assistance from the county. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Mercer County Fiscal Court, Lee Wilson asked for some clarification on Billy Horn Road. Wilson bought a farm from the road’s namesake years ago, and owns property on both sides of the railroad tracks.
“It’s always been considered a county road,” Wilson said. “I’m here today to figure out what is a county road, what isn’t a county road.”
But there have been issues, including Norfolk Southern trains blocking the roads for hours. Wilson spoke with former Judge-Executive Milward Dedman about the problem in 2020 . Dedman wrote a letter to Norfolk Southern while Sheriff Ernie Kelty wrote a ticket to the train blocking the crossing.
“I got educated,” Kelty recalled Tuesday. Kelty said he learned he could not ticket the train’s engineer directly. “The ticket goes to Nashville, to the head office. The ordinance did not apply because the road was private. That pretty much ended me right there.”
Wilson said the crossing was formerly marked as a private crossing. After Dedman’s letter, Norfolk Southern put up stop sign. Wilson asked how far the county road went.
“It appears to me it was a county road before,” Wilson said.
Judge Steele said state map doesn’t show the county owned road extending all the way to the railroad tracks, however, the county has maintained parts of Billy Horn and other roads that are not actually county roads, Steele said.
Steele said the road does not meet the specifications for county adoption. “We don’t adopt if it’s not up to specs,” Steele said.
“On my end, there is nothing more I can do,” the judge said. “I’ll leave it up to the court.”
As far as the county is concerned, the rest of Billy Horn Road is a private road.
“Who owns the private road?” Wilson asked.
“The landowners,” Steele answered. “We don’t maintain the other side.”
Steele said she felt terrible there was at least one landowner on the other side who may need access, which they would lose if Norfolk Southern decided to remove the crossing.
“Can we make it a private road the whole way?” Wilson asked.
“It would take another ordinance,” Steele said. She said all landowners would have to agree.
Steele also announced Mercer County has been awarded $95,500 to resurface a little over a mile of Paxton Road/County Road 1317. The award was part of $3.4 million in discretionary transportation funding for 24 cities and counties across Kentucky approved by Gov. Andy Beshear. The discretionary funding is administered through the Department of Rural and Municipal Aid at KYTC. At Tuesday’s meeting, the fiscal court authorized a resolution an agreement with KYTC.
“This is a big plus,” said Steele, who noted it had been two years since the county had received discretionary funds. Steele said they hope to get started within next couple of weeks.
During his administration, Beshear has approved discretionary transportation funding totaling more than $62 million to all 120 Kentucky counties.
The fiscal court also approved using $20,100 in earned interest to remill and pave 900 foot of Gell Lane Project.
Earlier this month, the fiscal court voted to keep the same tax rates as last year. They voted to keep the tax for real property at 12.6, the tax for personal property at 18.31 and the tax for motor vehicles and watercraft at 9.2. The tax rates produced revenue of more than $1.9 million last year and is calculated to produce more than $2 million this year.
The fiscal court received word that the Mercer County Cooperative Extension Service will keep their tax rates from last year unchanged at 4.2 for real property, 7.77 for personal property and 1.20 for motor vehicles. The Mercer County Board of Education unanimously approved increasing the 2023-2024 tax rate from 70.2 per $100 for real estate and 70.6 per $100 for personal property to 71.6 per $100 for real estate and personal property. It was projected the new tax rate would generate more than $10.6 million in possible revenue.
On Tuesday, the magistrates voted to revise the county budget, as the Mercer County Conservation District is increasing the millage tax it charges from .007 to .010, a little over a penny. It is the first increase since 1988.
“It’s come to the point where we’ve got some expenses,” said Paul Campbell, a member of the district’s board of directors, citing wages, equipment costs and the costs of audits. Campbell said the increase averages out to $4.08 on a tax bill. The district already held a public hearing and Campbell said a recall notice will be sent out. He said the directors want to move the district forward.
Part of the costs will go to a contingency fund in case they need to find another office, Campbell said.
The Mercer County Health Department also informed the fiscal court that the health department had chosen the compensating rate—which is formulated to provide the same revenue as the previous year—of 4.70 rather than keep the rate at 4.73.