Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Shrinking coal severance funds limit county’s spending ability

Judge Executive Jim Townsend swears in new Dog Warden
Aaron Richmond at Monday's meeting

J-E News Editor
Webster County Fiscal Court was feeling the burden of shrinking coal severance funds on Monday when magistrates were asked to approve a priority list of projects for Local Government Economic Assistance (LGEA) funds to be used in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The county had no choice on the item that topped the priority list. The state mandated that the city of Providence would receive $319,000 to pay off debts.
“It might take until January before we have that money available,” said county treasurer Paula Guinn.
LGEA money comes to the county quarterly, and the Providence debt payment is expected to take most, if not all, of the funds from the July, October and January installments. That will leave only the April 2015 payment to cover other items on the list.
Other projects for this fiscal year include:
#2:  Webster County Fiscal Court projects - $200,000
#3: Clay sewer project: $75,000
#4: Providence sewer project - $75,000
#5: Slaughters Park upgrades - $35,000
#6: Sebree water project - $200,000
#7: Clay fire equipment - $75,000
#8: Providence equipment - $75,000
#9: Wheatcroft Project

“Where is the money for the Sebree water project coming from?” asked magistrate Jerry ‘Poogie’ Brown.
“It’s supposed to be on this,” Judge Executive Jim Townsend said. “They were on the list last year but did not get funded.”
Guinn reported that Sebree eventually had to borrow money to fund their water line rehabilitation project.
Coal severance money, which Kentucky’s coal mining counties use to support and repair their infrastructure, have been declining for several years. When the coal severance fund was initially set up, coal mining counties were supposed to get roughly 50 percent of coal severance tax dollars back to improve roads, drinking water and other infrastructure related items.
More recently the state legislature has come under fire for ‘off the tops’, a process by which it spends part of the coal severance tax revenue before giving the counties their half. Most notably was the 2013 decision to spend $2.5 million in Lexington to help pay for the planning and design of  renovations at Rupp Arena.
Lexington is in Fayette County which is not a coal mining county.
In other business, Judge Townsend swore in the county’s new permanent dog warden at Monday’s meeting. Aaron Richmond has been acting in that capacity since the first of the year
“Aaron has done a really good job for us so far,” Townsend said. “I’d like to give him the authority that goes with his title.”
Magistrates voted to allow Judge Townsend to sign papers to take possession of a house and property located at 204 North Finley Street in Providence. The lien holder, Wells Fargo Financial, sold the property to the county at no charge.
After all of the paperwork is filed, the county plans to sell the property either by silent bid or by auction.
The court ended the meeting by going into a closed session to discuss personnel issues. They returned with nothing to report.

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