Much of the action for the McCracken County Fiscal Court took place in a courthouse boardroom Monday afternoon, where the governing group held a workshop to discuss its possible dissolution or withdrawal from the Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), as well as the financial status of the county.
Initially proposed by Commissioner Eddie Jones in May, the hope for the county was that the current CVB could be dissolved and replaced by two separate commissions, one run by the city and the other by the county, so that each could levy a transient room tax on motel rooms within city and county limits to generate revenue for use towards tourism purposes.
The segment on the CVB was led by McCracken County Attorney Sam Clymer, who was of the opinion that maneuver would not work the way it was initially pitched.
"It sounded really, really extraordinarily simple at first," the county attorney said. "The county can withdraw from the existing CVB. There's no problem with that. What I'm concerned about is when we separate and become two different governments with two different statutes."
The inherent issue for Clymer is that the separate commissions would be using a statute that was meant to be applied countywide, making separate taxes a jurisdictional issue. He believes that, were the action taken, the county would only be eligible to tax rooms rented outside city limits and the city those within, essentially not allowing double taxation.
Initial steps towards this action were taken based off an attorney general opinion written by Jack Conway in 2015, where he advised that a city and county may separate and each levy transient room taxes. It did not specify, mechanically, how the taxes would operate within the same territory or if they could stack.
"It's incredibly complicated and there's no clear cut answers to it," added Clymer. "My thoughts would be that we need to propose a request for an attorney general opinion. It needs to be very detailed and based particularly on these concerns. Can this be done? Well, it can; but what are the tax implications?"
Whether or not the proposal would function the way it was proposed last month is "literally the million dollar question," Jones said during the workshop.
"You can do whatever you want, but I'm going to make sure you do it with your eyes wide open," Clymer explained. "There's some significant concerns going on here. There's no 100 percent yes or no. Based on what I've read, I wouldn't say change something right now."
Ultimately the decision to pursue the withdrawal or dissolution from the CVB was tabled as the court elected to continue its research via Clymer soliciting an attorney general opinion, establishing contact with Rich Ornstein, an attorney for the Kentucky Association of Counties, to ask his opinion on the action taken in Christian and Grayson counties, which have taken similar action in recent years.
"Nobody wants to withdraw unless we get the additional transient room tax," Jones said. "I'm not interested in changing anything unless we create more revenue."
Further discussion of the budget followed, as Commissioner Bill Bartleman and Deputy Judge-Executive Steve Doolittle discussed the possibility that the nearly $900,000 shortfall forecasted in late May could not be as sizable as predicted.
Doolittle confirmed that the county might have underestimated revenue or overestimated expenses for June and that this finding could possibly result in the county putting money back into the budget that was previously taken out.
"We might end up in a little bit better of a position than we are right now, but we won't know that until we close out at the end of the month," Doolittle explained.
Later in the evening, the meeting saw the court members deal with a variety of requests, including contributing $1,500 towards the funding of the State NAACP Convention, to be held in Paducah this September, and $10,000 towards a BUILD Grant Application on behalf of the Paducah Riverport. Both of these will be funded out of the county's PACRO funding, which is earmarked for economic development purposes.
Other business included a funding proposal from the county's Court Appointed Special Advocates, which provides service to children in need in the court system, which the county tabled until July, when more will be known about the budgetary situation.
The next meeting of the McCracken County Fiscal Court will take place on June 24.