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Louisa council votes to impose Occupational License tax, raise non-residential trash collection fees, and require water company to repay bills to city for past five years service;

 

LOUISA -- The Louisa City Council met in special session Tuesday evening to decide the fate of Louisa businesses and people who work in the city limits. The council was a split vote on whether or not to impose a business and occupational tax of .05 percent. Council members Bradley Stark, Ben Wellman and Lisa Schaeffer voted yea while Gloria Johnson, Rita Frazier Rose and Chris Daniels noted nay leaving Louisa Mayor Teddy Preston broke the tie with a yes vote.

At the onset of the meeting both Mayor Preston and city attorney Eldred Adams gave speeches telling the packed room that questions would be handled one by one and citizens would be allowed five minutes to speak their piece. "We're not going to have a meeting like the last one," Adams said. "The council cannot get their work done when they can't hear themselves speak."

Adams specifically called out "the media" to keep quiet during the meeting. "Media apparently means Roberta and myself, who represent The Lazer, because we are the only media that attends the meetings in person to report on them," said Lazer Editor/Publisher Mark Grayson. "Besides, neither of us have spoken out of turn in any meeting. It sounds to me like a shot across the bow to remind us who is the boss at the meetings." Grayson said. "The Lazer will continue to have a representative at all city and county and school board meetings and reports will continue to be objective and include all discussed matters."

In a ten minute speech, Louisa resident Sally Davis (Shown above with Violet Trout sitting at her right) made her opinion clear that she was for the .05% Occupational License tax even though she stated she does not work and will not have to pay the tax herself. She voiced her opinion that the city was in dire need of the tax to bring the city out of the red. "I've been back here for eight years now and I love this little town, I want to see it grow and prosper," Davis said. "It is not acceptable to cut the police and fire protection for the citizens here."

Other citizens lamented the affect the city's financial problems are having on police protection. One pharmacist said he feels much safer with the police protection his business gets and that it was one of the main reasons he stayed in Louisa instead of moving to another area.

"The police here do a great job and my business requires protection from break-ins," he said. "The new tax will amount to less than $10 per month for most people, anyway."

Last night's crowd at city hall listened carefully to the council. photo by Mark GraysonLast night's crowd at city hall listened carefully to the council. photo by Mark GraysonViolet Trout did not agree.

Trout said she has no problem paying a higher business tax, but does not agree with the Occupational License tax and expressed a sympathetic opinion toward those who work in the city who, she said, are struggling to make ends meet. "I think the business fee is too low, we only pay $50 a year and I would be glad to pay $200, but to tax everyone without knowing how much you're going to get from it or any details, is not acceptable," Trout told the council last night.

City Clerk Kathy Compton said the city currently collects the business fee from "about 145 businesses" in the town and they pay according to the number of employees they have. She said all businesses do not pay because the city does not know about them.

In another effort to raise revenue, the council also voted to increase city trash collection rates to non-residential customers. If the second reading is passed next week and the mayor signs the budget, those who don't live in the city limits will now pay $14 to have their garbage picked up if they choose to utilize the city garbage service. However, they can choose to use an individual garbage company and have the $14 deducted from their monthly water and sewage bill, Preston said. 

The issue of where the city employees get their fuel for city owned vehicles was brought up by Johnson, who asked mayor Preston where he gets his fuel. "I get mine on the city's Fleet card at the Sunoco or BP station," Preston said. Police Chief Phillip Claxon said his officers get their fuel, which amounted to $17,000 last year, from Speedway, Sunoco or BP as well. All other departments get their gas at the city's bulk plant where the current price is several cents cheaper. "Everyone should get their fuel from the bulk plant, even it it's just a few cents savings each time, that adds up," Johnson said. No action was taken by the council.

City employees are upset over the decision to require them to pay a portion of their health insurance premiums.complainCity employees are upset over the decision to require them to pay a portion of their health insurance premiums.complainOne city worker brought up an argument about a recent vote to require city workers to pay 20% of their health insurance after years of getting 100% coverage.

"We don't make the kind of money that we can afford to pay $30-$40 out of our paychecks for insurance," the city worker said. He also stated that most of the workers have dropped the insurance already because of the inability to pay the 20%. 

Rose, who is the longest serving member on the council, explained that when a former mayor back several years ago offered the 100% coverage to city employees, it was because the insurance premiums weren't that expensive at $457 per month, but in time the premiums have risen to over $950 per month and the vote to require city employees to pay the 20% was necessary for the city to make ends meet. The insurance is purchased through the Teamsters union and all city workers and officials who have been getting the free insurance are reportedly members of the Teamsters whether they know it or not.

Schaeffer said she doesn't know of any governments or businesses that pay for 100% health care coverage on their employees, and the new tax is something that has to be done to get the city out of the financial woes it is suffering from. "I would like to know if we can exempt low income workers and senior citizens from paying the tax," Schaeffer asked, but Adams said the tax must be "uniform" meaning everyone has to pay. But according to the ordinance, banks and insurance companies do not have to pay the tax and city clerk Kathy Compton read the KRS to the crowd to prove it. Bank employees, however, will pay the new tax, according to the law.

Chris Daniels, Rita Rose and Gloria Johnson voted 'no' on the Occupational license tax motion. Lazer photo by Mark Graysontax_meetingChris Daniels, Rita Rose and Gloria Johnson voted 'no' on the Occupational license tax motion. Lazer photo by Mark Graysontax_meetingAt the last special session council members, as well as audience members, asked Adams if the city could impose a flat rate of $1 to $2 per week as is done in other neighboring cities, but last night the matter was not considered by the council nor did Adams say if such a fee could be implemented, instead council members asked if the city's current 8% tax on insurance premiums could be raised by the council. Compton said she knows of "several" cities that charge as much as 14% or more. But Compton also said the city was short "about $100,000" this year from the previous year on insurance tax premiums. No vote was taken on that issue. 

On motion of Starks and second by Gloria Johnson, who is the city's representative on the Water Commission, the council voted unanimously to require the Louisa Water Company to go back five years and reimburse the water bills paid for the Louisa Community and Senior Citizen Centers as well as city hall.

 "Why were we paying for water bills when the city owns the water company?" Starks, who made the motion to retrieve the funds, asked. "What were we doing paying $300 a month for the water?" City Clerk Kathy Compton corrected Starks by telling him the bill averaged around $58 dollars a month for the city hall building. Compton estimated the bills that were wrongfully paid would amount to just over $3,000 not counting interest. 

The council has met in several special sessions in the past two months to try and get the new $1.4 million 2011-12 budget balanced and in doing so have made major cuts to all departments except one as well as ordering a spending freeze since April.

(See story on the Occupational tax raise by Mark Grayson in today's Lazer)

Mayor breaks tie in favor of .05% tax on businesses net profits and employees gross;

 

LOUISA -- Mayor Teddy Preston cast the tie breaking vote this evening in favor of a new Occupational License tax after a motion by Council member Bradley Stark and a second by Ben Wellman with Lisa Schaeffer also voting 'yes' on the first reading of the tax ordinance. Council members Gloria Johnson, Rita Frazier Rose and Chris Daniels voted 'no' on the controversial issue.

Preston told the packed city courtroom that  he was breaking the tie "for the benefit of the city employees and the people of Louisa." The mayor does not have a vote in council matters except in case of a tie vote. The second reading will take place at the regular meeting next Tuesday evening, the mayor said.

Council members voted on Stark's motion even though it is not known how many workers or businesses are located in the city and how much the businesses profit or the employees make. The council also does not know how much the new tax would bring into city coffers because no study has been done by city officials.

"We've asked for that information several times but have not been provided with it yet," Stark said. He also included in his motion that the tax be placed on the public for one year only and the matter would have to be voted on again next June for it to continue.

Stark asked that his motion include the stipulation that the new money will go to pay the past due bills, but city attorney Eldred Adams said he was not sure if the tax monies can be earmarked for certain purposes. "All city revenues must go to the General Fund," Adams told Stark, who is also an attorney. "I will have to do some research and see if the council can vote to place this tax money in specific accounts and use it for just that purpose," Adams said.

According to city clerk Kathy Compton, the city has more than  $70,000 in unpaid bills from last fiscal year.

Council members L to R  Lisa Schaeffer, Brad Stark and Ben Wellman supported the mayor's Occupational License tax at tonight's first reading of the tax ordinance. Council members L to R Lisa Schaeffer, Brad Stark and Ben Wellman supported the mayor's Occupational License tax at tonight's first reading of the tax ordinance. The council also voted to pass the first reading of the city budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year opting to bring it into balance by reducing the number of city police officers from six to five. One officer recently resigned so no city policemen will have to be laid off. Several audience members expressed concern over cuts to the police department.

Compton explained that she had at first thought the city could not use tax monies collected on insurance policies, expected to be in the $200,000 range, to pay on the bills since it will not come in until later this month. But she said city auditor Dan Howard had stopped by her office and told her and mayor Preston that that money can be used to pay off the bills. The council voted to borrow $75,000 last June but Compton said monies came in quickly enough that the money was never actually borrowed.

But the council was asked tonight to approve a loan of $75,000 again this year. See Lazer reporter Roberta Blevins' story on that issue and the complete meeting later tonight or tomorrow.

Louisa Council MEETING SET FOR JULY 5, tax, loan on agenda;


Council members Chris Daniels and Gloria Johnson have come up with new ideas on how to re-work the city's budget.Council members Chris Daniels and Gloria Johnson have come up with new ideas on how to re-work the city's budget.

PRESTON CALLS SPECIAL SESSION FOR JULY 5;

Louisa Mayor Teddy Preston sent the following agenda and announcement of a special session to The Lazer at 2:05 p.m. July 1.

 

 

Louisa City Council

Agenda

Special Meeting

July 5, 2011-- 7:00 PM

Louisa City Hall

  1. Call to order.

  2. City of Louisa Budget 2011-2012.

  3. First Reading of Ordinance For “Occupational License Tax …”

  4. Discuss a possible bank loan.

  5. Adjourn.


 

No city meeting Thursday as announced;

LOUISA -- A spokesperson for the Louisa City government said this morning that the meeting set for tonight has been postponed until Tuesday, July 5, 2011. At the two hour special meeting held Monday evening, a special meeting to vote on the first reading of the 2011-12 budget and also the first reading of a proposed new tax on businesses and workers in Louisa was set for Thursday evening even though city attorney Eldred "Bud" Adams said he could not make the meeting.

But no notice was sent to media outlets yesterday meaning the meeting cannot be held, council member Gloria Johnson said.

"I called this morning about not getting a notice for tonight's meeting and Cory (Longstreth) said there is no meeting tonight," Johnson said. Mayor Teddy Preston did not return calls for confirmation, but one source said Preston is claiming no meeting was scheduled for tonight. But more than fifty individuals packed city hall and each of them heard the meeting set for tonight. The Lazer also has much of Monday night's meeting on video.

Both Adams and City Clerk Kathy Compton said Monday that some time to include the new votes for reductions into the budget was needed so a meeting should be held Thursday to pass the first reading of the budget that council members unanimously agreed on Monday night.

The city is facing dire economic times and has already voted to require city workers to pay 20% of their health insurance coverage, laid off two employees, reduced police funds, fire dept. funds and city pool funds for the budget which is supposed to be turned in to the state by July 1, Adams said.

"That is not going to happen," Johnson said. "We still have a lot of work to do and no meeting until July 5, so how are we supposed to get this done?"


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