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Vine Grove council continues tax debate

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By Joshua Coffman

 

By JOSHUA COFFMAN jcoffman@thenewsenterprise.com VINE GROVE — Talk continued Monday night on a proposed 1 percent occupational tax, but City Council members took no action on it. Also, days before the state’s June 30 deadline, council members passed a projected $2.76 million budget that leaves about $115,000 in surplus. Tax talk, however, dominated most of the night. Councilman Eric Vowels, continuing discussion that first sprang up six months ago as leaders look for more ways to raise money for the city of Vine Grove, said he had talked with other city officials, including Radcliff financial officer Chance Fox, whom Vowels said echoed comments of other municipal officials. “‘I don’t see how you all function without it,’” the councilman recalled Fox saying. Vowels estimated the tax would generate about $100,000 annually or roughly 10 percent of the city’s current general fund. Councilman Keena Straney also voiced support for the tax. “I think it’s something we’re going to have to have at one time or another,” he said. “I say we lay out our options and go from there.” Vowels noted the need to replace police cars and equip officers with more high-tech equipment, expand the city’s parks and recreation, purchase emergency warning sirens and repair crumbling sidewalks. Critics however, including Mayor Donovan Smith, said the proposed tax would not cover all of the items and said the city could continue operating without more money from taxpayers. Smith said he ran against an occupational tax when first elected mayor a decade ago; he argued that time has shown it wasn’t needed then and he insists the tax isn’t needed now. “Those folks were proven wrong then and I think, if we do not pass an occupational tax, those who are against it (now) will be proven right again,” Smith said. Councilman Mark Allen also sharply challenged the rationale for a new tax, saying “people with two or three jobs, they’re doing without, too. Sometimes you have to cut back.” Councilman Blake Proffitt seemed to be on the fence about the tax. “I don’t know which way is the right way,” he said, though he noted the city’s perceived financial strains would likely prompt a need for more money. “The budget is tight and it’s going to do nothing but get worse. … We need to research this and make the right decision, but there’s no doubt we’re going to have to pay for some things.” Councilmen Donnie Lynch and Bill Singer did not attend Monday night’s meeting. Though Vowels said he wanted to find a way to raise money while minimally impacting residents, Smith called the proposal a “teacher tax.” “That’s 100 percent ludicrous,” interjected Vowels, who works for the county school system. “If it’s not a teacher tax, I don’t know what it is,” Smith rebutted. “That’s where the money’s coming from. The state government gave them 1 percent and now Vine Grove wants to take it. … If you exclude the teachers, I don’t think you would be proposing this.” Vowels reaffirmed his desire to plan and pay for long-range projects, which without the tax, he said, “will eat up the city’s money.” “We’re putting things off, saying we can do things later,” Vowels said. “I think we owe it to our residents, our citizens, to do more than just get by.” Council members could look at an ordinance to enact a tax as soon as its July 7 meeting. Joshua Coffman can be reached at (270) 505-1740.