Scott County considering public safety tax that could fund addit - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Scott County considering public safety tax that could fund additional jail expansion in the future

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Despite a more than $11 million expansion, the Scott County Jail is still plagued with problems. The county is considering building yet another new addition to the jail, and it could come from a tax increase. 

"Right now, we pay enough taxes,” said Linda Hughes, who lives in Scott County.

Scott County is facing a budget shortfall and higher tax bills for residents could soon be a reality. 

"Higher taxes would be really bad for me, really bad,” said Patty Martin, another Scott County resident.. “And I'm sure (they would be) for a lot of the other people in Scott County." 

The county is proposing to change tax rates to impose what the county council is calling a new public safety tax. It would increase the income tax expenditure rate from 1.5 to 2.5 percent. The allocation percentage would also change, and 1.5 percent of the new tax would be directed to public safety costs. 

"Our budget this year is about $1.2 million to $1.5 million short,” County Council Chairman Mike Zollman said. 

Whether the money collected by the proposed tax will also be spent on another new jail expansion is still undecided. It's a source of controversy because the county spent $11.5 million to build a new jail expansion that opened just 15 months ago. 

"It's probably needed, but I think things were not distributed well,” Hughes said. 

The addition ran so far over budget that there was no money left to renovate the old jail as planned. The state is still demanding a fix to solve overcrowding issues and health and safety concerns. 

County commissioners studied the costs of a renovating the old jail. When estimates came back almost as high as the cost of a completely new jail expansion, the commissioners voted 2-1 and decided building another new addition to replace the old jail was most cost effective. 

The proposal was sent to the county council, and it was asked to fund the $5.5 million project. 

If approved, the new addition would be built on an existing piece of county-owned land adjacent to the jail. The new addition would operate in conjunction with the current expansion. The old jail would be torn down. 

"At this time, the council has taken no action whatsoever on that plan,” Zollman said. 

Zollman said the proposed tax increase would mainly fund other areas of the budget deficit including 911 services and security at the county courthouse.

However, not all council members agree, and those opposed believe the tax revenue will indeed fund a new jail expansion. Zollman admits that is a possibility in the future. 

"Later on down the road, it could be used to finance a new jail because it's a public safety tax,” He said. 

The Scott County Council will hold a public meeting on Oct. 27 to discuss the proposed local income tax ordinance. 

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