Perryville to revisit 20117-2018 tax rate for third first reading

Published 10:02 am Saturday, October 7, 2017

Council members change votes on increases due to sewer rate increase, express frustration with Danville

The Perryville City Council will be having two special meetings next week to have a first and second reading on the city’s 2017 property tax rates, after four of the six members voted against the proposed rate Thursday night.

“I don’t really know how to go about this and if I’m wrong in doing this, I apologize off the bat. On this tax rate increase — I know we’ve voted on it, but it’s my understanding it doesn’t go into effect until the second hearing. I’m going to rescind my vote to raise them,” said council member Steve Bailey. “I am going to vote against raising taxes due to the sewer rate increase in Perryville.”

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There was a short applause and a few cheers from the small crowd.

“We had nothing to do with the sewer rate,” said council member Julie Clay.

“I didn’t say we did, Julie. Because the people, the citizens, that I represent have to pay such a high amount for sewer and water, I don’t think we ought to shove anything else down their throat,” Bailey said.

An “amen” was heard from the crowd.

Council member Brian Caldwell said he would also like to rescind his previous “yes” vote.

The City of Perryville was hit with a rate increase of about 86.5 percent, from $6.804 per 100 cubic feet to $12.69 per 100 cubic feet by the City of Danville, which provides sewer service for the area. The increase appeared on the most recent bills, sent out at the end of September and beginning of October.

In August, a first reading was held of an ordinance that would have set the city’s property tax rates. But in September, council members held another first reading, which would have set the real and personal property rates at 34.7 cents per $100, up from 33.7 cents per $100 on the 2016 rate; and the motor vehicle and water craft rate at 40 cents per $100, which is the same as last year. 

“Part of me wonders why Danville should be allowed to set our budget,” Clay said.

Perryville set its 2017-18 budget before Danville’s sewer rates were set.

Caldwell said he understood Clay’s point, but agreed with Bailey.

“I guess when they said that, I’ll be honest, I didn’t grasp what it would do to a $200 water bill,” Caldwell said. “I don’t mind the raise, I really don’t, but it should have been incremented. It should have been spread out. It’s not our fault Danville didn’t catch it for so long.”

According to Clay, the Parksville Water District is considered a customer of Danville because they buy water wholesale. Perryville instead is part of Danville’s system. 

“I have done some research into this over the past week,” Clay said. 

She said it would take petitioning Danville for Perryville to get representation with Danville Water.

According to Michele Gosser, chief financial officer for the City of Danville, Perryville’s rates had to be raised more than Junction City or Danville rates because of prior debt still owed on Perryville’s sewer system. Gosser visited the city in September and explained then that the debt was incurred by Perryville prior to the system being bought by Danville. 

The city of Danville bought the city of Perryville’s water system in 2003. The debt is scheduled to be paid in 2040.

“By KRS, we are not allowed to allocate that to other people,” Gosser said at the time. “That’s why your percentage is higher.”

She had no explanation for why the debt was not caught earlier, but said Danville had been losing money on Perryville for several years.

Houck said on Thursday he agreed with Bailey. “I think it’s stupid, if you’re going to wait 12 years and realize you have a bill that’s not being paid.”

But, he said, it won’t do the council any good to debate the issue.

“We can sit here all night and figure out what we would do. The city of Danville, that’s their business and they own it,” Houck said. He said the city of Perryville had given up their rights several years ago when the water system was sold to Danville.

“I totally get (Steve’s) side. I get (Julie’s) side, too,” Houck said. “Do we honestly say now, well, we’re not going to have bread and flour because the city of Danville has decided they want champagne on our bill? It’s a tough call to make.” 

“I love how you make that sound so nice when you’re talking about the sewer,” Clay said.

Mayor Anne Sleet continued to read the ordinance so they could get all six votes on the record — council members Bailey, Caldwell, Houck and JoAnne Reynolds voted no, and council members Clay and Paul Webb voted yes.

Houck said, as he motioned to the crowd, “The people that are in this room, you guys included — we’ve got to get together and go to the city of Danville. We can’t just sit down here in our little room and expect that Mike Perros cares. Or that the (commission) of the City of Danville cares what goes on here in Perryville … They’re going to read this in the newspaper and they could care less. 

“We need to go to them as a city and say, ‘Look, I get it, you screwed up. And now you’re trying to figure out how to pay your bill. But the reality is, you can’t come back and charge us (86) percent more at the detriment of us being able to balance our budget for the city at the things we need to do.’”

“With two weeks notice,” Clay said.

Mayor Sleet pointed out that the planned raises were in the newspaper before September, and Perryville officials could have gone to voice complaints before.

During the September council meeting, council members requested Gosser have Danville mail notices to residents who would be affected by the sewer rate increase. Webb asked those in the crowd if anyone received a notice — all said no.

“I don’t have a problem with an increase. But I do have a problem with (an 86-)percent increase on a two-week notice,” Caldwell said. “Phase it in; it’s not our fault it wasn’t caught before now.”

He and Bailey said it was the principle of the fact and what it would mean to citizens, that’s why they voted no.

“Don’t rub salt in their wounds,” Bailey said.

“Imagine what the people of Danville would be saying,” Houck said.

Clay also requested the city clerk draft a letter to the Danville City Commission to express their discontent.

“We do not appreciate the lack of notice, the lack of professionalism in sending (Gosser) instead of the engineer to explain it,” Clay said.

The city will have two special-called meetings 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, to have first and second readings on the 2017-2018 tax rates.