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What should county taxes cover?

Grayson mayor believes it should be more

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 Grayson Mayor George Steele has been chaffing at what he has called “double taxation” of city residents by the county for some time. His complaints have centered around issues like animal control, the library, E911 dispatching, and even when and where the city fire department should respond. Steele clashed with the county last year when fiscal court asked the cities of Grayson and Olive Hill to enter into a reciprocal agreement with the county that would allow dog warden Woody Maddix to pick up animals in the cities in exchange for the cities covering a portion of the costs for running the county animal shelter. Steele also refused to renew Grayson’s portion of costs for the Carter County Public Library when he presented his budget to city council, putting the future of the Grayson branch of the library in question. 

Steele came to Olive Hill last week, during their regular council meeting, to discuss plans for presenting a unified front to the county government on these issues. 

“I’m not trying to cause trouble between the city and county governments,” Steele told the Olive Hill Council, “but the cities are paying for services for people living outside city limits.” 

Among the services Steele noted was fire protection. 

“We haven’t had one penny” from the county to support the municipal fire departments, Steele told Olive Hill. Despite that, he noted, approximately half the city’s calls are generated from those living outside of city limits. 

“I’ve been tolerant for 13 years,” Steele continued, explaining that was because the cities were generally better off financially than the county. But, he said, “we’re not responsible” for the bad county roads. 

In addition, he noted, the cities are paying for things like 911 dispatching, but he feels like that should be provided to the cities at no extra charge since the people living in Carter County’s two cities are also paying taxes to the county in addition to the taxes they pay the municipalities. 

“You’re paying double taxes,” Steele told the Olive Hill Council. “It’s double taxation on people in the cities.” 

On top of that, Steele said, “the (fiscal) court doesn’t think they owe cities anything… so it’s taxation without representation!” 

Steele, who planned to meet again with representatives from Olive Hill on Monday night, asked the council at their meeting last Tuesday to appoint no more than two members from the council to attend that Monday night meeting. The reason Steele didn’t want more than two individuals was to avoid having to schedule a special session, due to Kentucky’s open meeting laws which require all meetings with a quorum of public officials to be scheduled, advertised, and open to the public. Steele told the Olive Hill Council that after holding his meeting with them he would like to have a similar number of council members meet with him and two representatives of the county government, again to avoid the need for scheduling a public meeting. 

“None of us want to leave people without fire protection,” Steele said after enumerating the costs to his city for covering fires outside of city limits, which he said totaled in excess of $198,000 for fire protection for homes outside city limits. “But it’s not right to ask us to foot the bill. It’s time for fiscal court to pass a fire tax.” 

“There’s a problem here in the county with this situation,” Steele continued. “What has happened, to both cities, is when fire districts were divided up, this was farm land (outside of the city limits). Now it’s filled up with subdivisions and homes.” 

Steele has also said he would support a county wide library tax to cover the costs of running a public library. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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