Shepherdsville officials to decide if occupational tax should be - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Shepherdsville officials to decide if occupational tax should be lowered or remain the same

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - The Shepherdsville City Council will decide if the occupational tax should remain the same or be lowered.

The tax is currently 1.5 percent, however it expires at the end of the year and would move back to 1 percent.  Employees who work in Shepherdsville pay the tax.

Two special City Council meetings will be held next Monday and Tuesday at 6 p.m. to discuss the tax situation. The public is expected to have an opportunity to talk.

Bernie Brown, of the Shepherdsville City Council, said, "We need to let it sunset as we promised, and then if there is a genuine need for more revenue. Let's tell the public what it's for and why it's needed."

Larry Hatfield, a Shepherdsville City Councilman-elect says, "Back about 4 years ago, the City was in bad financial problems. We had to raise sewer rates tremendously by 66 percent. I voted for that. We had to raise the occupational tax a half a percent to try and get the city out of debt." But Hatfield believes the tax should go back to 1 percent.

The two special Council meetings are being held just days before Hatfield and other new council members start.

On the agenda: the occupational tax. Brown says he and others weren't given information about what projects need to be funded.

Mayor Scott Ellis is proposing to keep the tax at 1.5 percent. He's on vacation and couldn't be reached for comment.

But the City Attorney Joe Wantland says the money would be used for two immediate projects. He says one is for litigation and engineering expenses with FEMA for changes to the flood map.

He says, "The cost of flood insurance may result in many families losing their homes. The city may be responsible for acquiring flowage/flood easements and contesting the engineering of the increase flood elevation, all of which is an unknown quantity the city must be prepared to fund adequately."

Wantland says, "Second, the participation of developing the Southeast quadrant along I-65 to Jim Beam Distilling. The city spent $9 million for a sewer line to Beam. The Commonwealth is interested in partnering with the city and private investment for infrastructure improvements in this area. The city is interested in having connection fees to recoup its investment. Presently, only Jim Beam has a connection to this line. If Beam reduces its need for sewer service the City sewer user would see their charges increase 25%. The city must develop this area to reduce pressure on the sewer user and increase the city's tax base."

Councilman Jose Cubero says, "In the last two years, we were able to payoff 1.5 million dollars of debt service, staff and tool the city's departments, and put additional school resource officers in our schools without any additional taxes or borrowing any monies."

He goes on to say, "Due to the current situation, we have additional projects that are vital to the growth of the city. For instance, we will need an additional fire station to service the south side of the city, the Blue Lick interceptor line to assist with flooding of the roads and surrounding neighborhood, additional infrastructure and some additional debt service for the city."

Cubero says, "The previous administration left us in a bad financial situation but also did not spend the taxes on the appropriate expenditures. I believe the occupational tax increase should be reviewed each year to see if the city warrants continuance. Also, when we proposed extending this rate because it impacts 15% of the people who live in the city, we added a 20% reduction in property taxes to our citizens to offset the increase to those who live and work in the city."

He says, "I believe the city should be transparent to the taxpayers but our city has done without for so many years because of the "Good Ole Boys" system that was in place that it is our responsibility as council to ensure we provide a safe community for our citizens and the pathway of growth to ensure the best social and retail services."

Brown said, "We already voted on....we rejected making this half percent permanent in January of this year."

Hatfield says, "I think they've spent themselves into a hole. I still think the half percent should come off."

The Bullitt County Chamber of Commerce issued a statement saying its board of directors is in favor of keeping the 1.5 percent occupational tax.

President Dan Cline says "We see this as a way to provide additional services in the community for the future. As a growing community, our infrastructure is a major concern and by leaving this tax in place it will allow us to address those concerns as we seek to attract more business to our community. "

But some local businesses say lowering the tax also would make it easier to attract more workers.

Brown said, "Doing it by special meeting for the 11th hour does not give the public opportunity to have any input and voice their opinions."

For the occupational tax proposal to pass, it would need a majority. There are six council members. The first reading of the proposal is on the agenda for December 29. The second reading is on December 30 and it could be voted on that night.

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