Raises in multiple departments of county government continued to dominate the discussion during Monday evening’s meeting of the McCracken County Fiscal Court, when the group ultimately passed a property tax rate increase and a resolution mapping out a plan for salary increases in the clerk’s office, the sheriff’s department and the jail.
The constitutionally-capped 4% increase to the county’s property tax revenue was ultimately agreed to by a vote of 3-1. Commissioner Jeff Parker was the lone nay.
“In talking to the small business community and people in the community, I think now is a very bad time for a tax increase,” he said.
McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer argued that since no member of the public took the time to voice their opinion on the tax rate being raised, lowered or kept the same by the county, that the court should do as its members feel best.
The new rate for the county will be 10.5 cents per $100 in assessed property value on real estate and 13.89 cents per $100 in assessed value on tangible property.
This change, according to Commissioner Eddie Jones, will yield an additional $160,000 in revenue and help spread the burden across the entire county rather than just those that live outside the Paducah city limits.
“By not taking reasonable steps with regard to our property tax, we are asking county residents to pay more through the insurance tax,” he said. “We’re talking about a permanent salary increase.
“That should be met with an increase in revenue or we should understand that we’re doing exactly what people did before us and that’s kick the can down the road.”
Commissioner Bill Bartleman had some concerns about approving the increase — chiefly drawn from the mistakes of past fiscal courts and a belief that the financial picture may not be as dire a picture as it’s been painted — but ultimately voted yes.
The resolution, ultimately passed 3-1 with only Clymer dissenting, states that the court “recognizes that the salaries of many county employees are low and need to be increased to ensure a sustainable experienced workforce,” with particular reference to public safety employees like sheriff’s deputies and county jail deputies, as well as employees in the county clerk’s office.
It has specific provisions that “any revenue generated from an increase above the 2020 compensating real estate property tax rate, plus additional funds that may be available” be allocated for raises in those departments of county government by no later than the first pay period of 2021. Additionally, it states that the court will allocate at least $400,000 in additional funds for salary increases to those departments with the passage of its new budget on July 1, 2021, and that they’ll determine in November 2021 whether or not they can put an additional $250,000 toward raises.
The final paragraph of the resolution states that the July and November 2021 provisions of the resolution are simply “goals” and those amounts “will be based on actual revenue and projected revenue and could be reduced or increased.”
Parker felt this was the “right path” and voiced his support of all three agencies.
Clymer said that this resolution was “very aggressive,” that there were too many unknowns involved and that it didn’t effectively function as a resolution due to the out presented in the final paragraph. He believed that the solution to making these raises happen lie in the tax rate increase, which the court would approve later in the meeting.
“I don’t want to make it appear that I’m not in favor of giving as much money as we possibly can to increase the wages of these departments,” he said. “I do think that it would be wise, if nothing else, if everybody’s in favor of this resolution, of us at least considering it in combination with whether or not we are going to provide any revenue increase above the compensating rate at all now or are we just going to keep it as is.”
Bartleman was the most vocal of the court in support of the resolution, having drawn it up. Based off his own research, he believes that the insurance premium tax that went into effect this July will produce between $2 million and $3 million in revenue for the county and directly fund these increases.
“I think it’s important that we put something in writing to show the residents of the county and to show the employees that we’re serious about that,” the second-term commissioner said. “I think we’ll have the money available, I think we just have to make the commitment.”