MOUNT WASHINGTON - Still weighing whether or not it would be in the city’s best interest to increase its share of the county’s insurance premium tax, council members recently gave the go-ahead to draft an ordinance that, if passed, would give the city the entire 5 percent, leaving the county with nothing.
The council’s decision to have an ordinance drafted came two weeks after Mayor Joetta Calhoun presented council members with a letter from the state informing them that they must pass an ordinance and submit it to the Kentucky Department of Insurance by March 23 if they wish to change the rate the city collects.
Not wanting to delay the issue any longer, though not sure how he will vote, Councilman Barry Armstrong made the motion to have an ordinance drafted with the understanding that the council could discuss it and make changes upon first reading if they wished.
While taking the remaining 1 percent of the insurance premium tax would fatten city coffers by more than $100,000 annually, council members felt they must first consider the services the county provides, how it would affect the county financially and what it would do to city-county relations.
“We definitely want to work with the city, but we want them to understand that would put a financial burden on the county,” said Bullitt County 2nd District Magistrate Dan Kelty.
As four council members sit on the fence considering the costs and benefits of taking the 1 percent from the county, Councilmen Dennis Griffin and Greg Gentry said they plan to vote against increasing the rate.
“When you take all you can I think it presents a negative and I don’t think we want to give off that vibe,” Gentry said.
Gentry said that while the county has not provided the city with a dollar-amount for the services they provide to Mount Washington he felt the additional $105,000 was not worth the risk of jeopardizing the city’s relationship with the county.
Gentry added that the only way he would vote to increase the city’s share of the tax was if there was strong evidence that Mount Washington was not receiving any kind of support from the county whatsoever.
“I just don’t believe that’s the case,” he said. “I think when you take, take, take there becomes resistance. I don’t think that’s the way a government body needs to operate.”
Gentry said maintaining the current rate would show the county that the city was a friendly neighbor and that they’re willing to work with them.
“You have to look at the big picture. That’s what we’re trying to do,” he said. “I hope we make a good decision here whether it’s to stay at 4 percent or go to 5 percent.”
With Magistrate Kelty just settling into his office after being elected in November, Griffin thought it was best to leave the rate where it stands and revisit it next year.
“We need to give him (Kelty) time to see what the county can do for the city,” Griffin said.
Griffin was skeptical that the county would stop providing service to the city if they were to take the remaining 1 percent, but he was concerned that it may become more difficult to get additional assistance from the county in the future.
Like the rest of the council, Armstrong was unsure of how he would vote on the ordinance, explaining that he was sympathetic to the county and their financial situation, but he pointed out that Mount Washington residents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes to the county and he wanted to make sure they were getting their money’s worth.
Armstrong also pointed out that the county has yet to provide detailed information regarding the services they offered the citizens of Mount Washington and the information they have provided has left more questions than answers.
“I still want to give it some thought,” Armstrong said. “I definitely don’t want to send the message that we don’t want to cooperate.”
Bullitt County Judge/Executive Melanie Roberts said the county planned to speak with city officials very soon, echoing the sentiments of council members that it was important the city and the county cooperate.
First reading of the ordinance is expected to take place during the council’s next regular meeting on Monday, February 28.
In other business:
*The council voted unanimously to accept Bullitt County Planning and Zoning’s recommendation to deny rezoning a 2.9 acre residential lot on Greenbriar Road.
During the Jan. 13 regular meeting of the planning commission, Marvin Proctor requested his property at 1071 Greenbriar Road be rezoned from R-1 Residential to B-1 Highway Business so he could sell it to Mike Osborne, who was interested in locating a lawn care business on the property.
Planning and Zoning denied the request on the grounds that the county’s comprehensive plan calls for medium density suburban residential and there have been no major changes in the area to warrant rezoning.
The next regular meeting of the Mount Washington City Council will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 28 at the City Annex Building on Branham Way.
The public is invited to attend.