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City, county to negotiate taxing dispute

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By Thomas Barr

      SHEPHERDSVILLE - A lawsuit alleging that Bullitt County employees were not paying their occupational taxes to the city of Shepherdsville is currently in litigation.

     But, there is a possibility that a settlement could be reached.

     After a short executive session, the Shepherdsville City Council gave mayor Scott Ellis and attorney Joseph Wantland the ability to negotiate a settlement with Bullitt Fiscal Court.

     The matter came to the surface a year ago when Shepherdsville officials began to do more investigation into occupational tax fees paid by those who work in the corporate limits.

     The current occupational tax rate is 1.5 percent.

     The discussion came just weeks after a hearing in Bullitt Circuit Court on the matter.

     Shepherdsville sued Bullitt County and county treasurer Kenann Sharp. The county in turn sued the treasurer.

     All three parties requested circuit judge Rodney Burress issue a summary judgment in their favor.

     Bruce Smith, an attorney representing Sharp, said that his client only does what she is told administratively. He said she does not have the power to decide who should be charged occupational taxes.

     Since she was not a finance officer, Smith contended that Sharp had no powers other than to follow the rules set forth by the county judge/executive.

     “She is clerical and has no power to make decisions,” said Smith.

     Amy Cubbage, an attorney representing the county’s insurance carrier, said it is the employees who are liable for the occupational tax and not the government.

     Under Chapter 65 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes, she added that the city has no claim against county government.

     But Wantland argued that the Constitution allows for the city to impose an occupational tax and that even government workers are liable for payment.

     And he said the city has the right to file suit against the county to force the collection and payment of the taxes.

     Burress inquired that if Cubbage was correct and the county was not liable for the collection and payment of taxes, what recourse would the city have to receive the money.

     Cubbage said she didn’t know the intent of the legislature when members set up the system but she felt county government was not liable for those duties.

     Wantland said all employees must pay and he didn’t understand why the treasurer took out taxes for some workers and not others.

     However, he didn’t see where the city would be responsible for filing claims against each individual employee when the county government should be the entity taking care of that duty.

     Burress took the motions under advisement.

     Last Monday, the council approved the mayor moving forward with some negotiations for a possible settlement.

     Wantland said it has never been the intention of the city to get into a battle with county government. However, he said the city feels that the employees should pay occupational taxes.

     The attorney hoped the talks would result in some type of agreement.