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Magistrates vote 3-2 to change method of allocating local tax money for road repairs

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 — A discussion of the 2020-21 county budget turned into a decision that will change how the county allocates local tax dollars for magisterial districts for road paving projects.

JEFF LEAR

For years, Nelson Fiscal Court has made available an equal amount of money for each magistrate’s district for road maintenance. This year, the county divided $600,000 among the five districts, giving each magistrate $120,000 for road paving.

When the budget review touched on local road paving money, Magistrate Jeff Lear suggested that the county change how it allocates local tax money for road maintenance.

Lear argued that the five districts differ in size and need, and giving each district the same amount of money isn’t fair or equitable.

The county has calculated the square footage of roads in each district, and Lear recommended the county allocate paving money based on square footage, which would give districts with more roads a greater share of money for their maintenance.

Magistrates Bernard Ice and Keith Metcalfe opposed making the change. Ice’s district would potentially lose up to $35,000 in paving money if the allocation method were changed. Metcalfe’s district would only lose $4,800.

Judge Executive Dean Watts suggested the magistrates consider changing its allocation method next year, but Lear said given the reduction in state road aid this next fiscal year, that the 2020-21 county budget is the year to do it.

After extensive discussion, the magistrates voted 3-2 to approve allocating local tax money for road maintenance by square footage.

Magistrates Bernard Ice and Keith Metcalfe voted against the change.

BUDGET DISCUSSION. Watts reviewed the final draft of the 2020-21 county budget with the magistrates.

The biggest drop in revenue for the county anticipated next year will be the reduction in state money used for helping with road maintenance projects in the county, he told the court.

Following nearly an hour of questions, answers and detailed discussion about the budget, the magistrates voted unanimously to approve the first reading. The second and final reading of the budget will come in June. June 30th is the deadline for having a budget completed.

EMPLOYEE HEALTH INSURANCE. The magistrates renewed its contract with Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield to provide health insurance for county employees.

Thanks to the fact there were fewer claims last year, the county received a 15 percent premium reduction, and that has been passed along to employees, Watts explained.

Employees with a family insurance plan will save approximately $2,500 a year in premiums. Watts said the county also received a reduction in out-of-pocket expenses from $6,600 to $4,000 per person.

The magistrates unanimously approved renewing the Anthem contract.

EMS / EMS REPORT. EMS Director Joe Prewitt reported that his office has taken orders for more than 36,000 masks from local businesses preparing to reopen under Gov. Andy Beshear’s “Safe At Work” guidelines. His office has also distributed 600 gallons of hand sanitizer.

Through the county’s emergency management office, Prewitt said his office has distributed nearly 100,000 surgical masks, almost 11,000 N95 masks, and 115 gallons of hand sanitizer to local first-responders since April 20, 2020.

Prewitt said EMS continues to receive a high number of calls for service by patients who are treated by EMS crews but refuse transport to the hospital.

EMS has handled nearly twice as many non-transport calls during this period as the agency did one year ago.

In other business, Nelson Fiscal Court:

— approved a budget amendment for the current fiscal year. The amendment is required to add unbudgeted revenue the county receives and anticipates spending by June 30.

— heard from Watts that the Old Courthouse is expected to reopen on June 1, 2020.

— heard that the county clerk’s office plans remain closed until at least July 6, 2020. The office will continue to handle transactions by telephone, email and dropbox.

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