MURRAY – The Calloway County Fiscal Court on Wednesday heard the first reading of the 2023-24 budget and voted to approve an agreement with a property owner to take possession of additional land on U.S. 641 North.
The court does not vote on the first reading of ordinances, but magistrates are expected to vote on the second reading of the annual budget ordinance at the scheduled June 21 meeting. The proposed total general fund is $21,525,231.51, and District 4 Magistrate Paul Rister said he is happy to report that the budget includes raises for county employees.
“I think that it should be noted … that for the past several years, our employees have taken the brunt of us not having the money to compensate them and the rising inflation,” Rister said. “… In this budget, I think employees will see that we gave a $1 per hour raise to some and 3% to others. The other thing is that since we'll be discussing switching insurance carriers, there will be some savings to the employees. Where they would typically pay in about $1,700 out of their paycheck a year, it could take some of them down to about $600 to $800 … so there's a huge savings to the employees by changing health care providers that they will also see in their paychecks. I just think that needs to be noted, that we just need to be taking care of our employees financially as best we can in these changing times.”
After meeting in executive session, the court voted to acquire two parcels of land to add to the other parcels it has purchased at U.S. 641 and KY 80 in recent months. Although the county has no stated plans for the property at this time, Imes said crews have been preparing the land so it will be ready for development if and when the county needs to locate any new facilities there or use it for some other purpose. Imes said the two new parcels – which total about 3.846 acres – are currently owned by Murray Memorial Gardens, and once the county takes possession of them, the total acreage of the site will be about 20 acres.
“I have negotiated an agreement with the company that owns the adjoining cemetery property, whereby the county will pay for some construction work to be done on behalf of the cemetery to repair leakage that affects both properties,” Imes said. “In addition to this payment for construction work – which is well below the appraised value of the property – the owner of the cemetery will convey (those) two parcels at the west and the northeast corner (of the property) to the county. It’s a good deal and it's a win-win for everybody concerned.”
Imes said County Attorney Bryan Ernstberger had sent a draft of the agreement to the company’s counsel stating that $86,400 is the maximum amount the county would spend on construction work.
“However, the owner of the cemetery has asked us to put $100,000 – which will be county money put into the county attorney's escrow account – (down) as a surety. Then once everything is consummated, that escrow account will be paid back in its entirety to the county, and at that point, we would pay for budgeted items out of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds for the acquisition and improvement of the property.”
The court also heard the first reading of a proposed ordinance to establish a county gas tax of 3.5 cents per gallon. Imes said Kentucky counties are currently prohibited from levying such a tax, so the ordinance would only go into effect if the General Assembly ever decides to pass a law allowing it.
“The proposed ordinance is a 3 1/2-cent per gallon tax for gas sold in Calloway County,” Imes said. “That will be null and void until the legislature gives us approval to do it, but my reasoning for doing that would be that we would be set up and ready to go if that ever happened. That would all be designated to the county road fund.”
The ordinance also includes a registration tax of $5 for gas-powered vehicles, $30 for hybrid vehicles and $100 for electric vehicles. Imes said it would also take a separate act by the General Assembly in order for the county to levy those taxes. Imes estimated that if the ordinance were ever implemented, it would yield somewhere between $500,000 and $600,000 annually.
• The court voted to approve the appointments of Jane Benson (District 2), Bill Marcum (District 3) and Lisa Farris (District 4) to a newly established Reapportionment Commission. Kentucky statute requires counties to establish such a commission in May after each 10-year U.S. Census to review the magisterial boundaries to ensure they are equal in proportion. The court also voted to re-appoint Dexter Almo Water District President Joe Dan Taylor to another four-year term.
• The court voted to approve a request for proposals (RFP) for the replacement of the Clarks River Bridge on Old Salem Road. The deadline for bid submissions will be 4 p.m. Friday, June 16 and the bids will be opened at 8 a.m. Monday, June 19, Imes said.
• The court approved a resolution authorizing Jailer Ken Claud to execute documents related to $25,596.74 in state money for video equipment. He said a 2023 appropriations bill allocated money for jails to standardize the equipment they use for inmate arraignments and other court proceedings done over videoconference.
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