Fiscal court making right decision on taxes

Published 5:44 pm Thursday, November 14, 2019

In discussing the certainties of life, Benjamin Franklin rightly named death and taxes. What he failed to mention was the inherent lack of legislative leadership as it relates to the latter. I don’t mean the legislative body of our county government — the fiscal court — but rather the folks in Frankfort whose intended or unintended consequences often leave a heavy burden on local governments.

The magistrates who voted to increase the county’s payroll tax rate are to be commended, not condemned, for making the hard yet appropriate decision for the long-term benefit of Boyle County. Judge Howard Hunt also deserves public thanks for making a statement in support of the court’s action when he easily could have remained quiet.

This was a difficult decision. I know. When I ran for county judge-executive last year, I had this very discussion with a number of supporters about the inevitability of the tax vote. Therein lies an example of the consequences we face because of actions in Frankfort.

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The 2020 Census is coming. That is irrefutable. And when the count is complete, Boyle County’s population will likely exceed 30,000. That’s the magic yet arbitrary number that legislators set that greatly restricts a county’s independent ability to raise payroll taxes — revenue that will be sorely needed to meet financial obligations for road and bridge maintenance, the jail, EMS, constituent services, and the mounting local contributions necessary for the pension promise to county employees — another example of legislative inaction in Frankfort.

The bottom line is that the vote had to happen now. Had I won the election last year, I would have been fully prepared to cast a tie-breaking vote to approve the tax if it came down to that. The long-term cost of inaction would have been far too great.

No one likes to pay higher taxes, and no elected official likes to make a vote to impose them. But we have to look beyond the current budget to the mounting cost of services for the county’s residents. The court exercised proper due diligence and, in my opinion, made the right vote. Judge Hunt and members of the court are leading the county — often a thankless position. But to them all, I say, “Thank you.”


Gary Chidester