Will Warren County’s streak of years without a property tax increase come to an end?
Losses in revenue, an increase in expenses, and a desire to retain the Driver Testing Center may require one.
“We know we’re losing $300,000 in property tax through Saint Thomas,” said Warren County Executive Herschel Wells referring to our hospital now being entirely owned by a nonprofit.
It’s been 13 years since the county last had a property tax increase.
Also hurting the county is an agreement between the city and county which returns 4 percent of an estimated $2 million in local option sales tax, over a 25-year period, to the city due to school consolidation.
The 4 percent is compounded annually. At an estimated $2 million a year, 4 percent is $80,000 annually.
“We’ll probably lose around $560,000 to the city,” said Wells. “We are at 16 percent to the city. We lost about $480,000 last year. Next year (2016), it will be 20 percent.”
The information was presented to members of the county Budget and Finance Committee during a discussion regarding the Driver Testing Center and how to fund an offer made by the state.
If the city or county provides a space to the state free of charge, the state will pay the expense of employees and allow the facility to stay. The state is attempting to rid itself of $77,000 a year in rent with its current lease agreement.
Revenue loss isn’t the only situation facing the county. Wells says consideration may be given to expansion of Warren County Jail, as well as additional staff for the increase in inmates.
“If we went to 500 beds out there, we’re only adding 132 beds,” he said. “Then, we have to add more staff. With the amount of inmates we have, we need more staff.”
Commissioner Carl E. Bouldin asked about the addition of a courtroom at the jail, “Would we be better off to put a courtroom out there? I know transporting is a problem. It gets expensive and it can be dangerous.”
“It would be nice,” said Wells. “I don’t know where we’d put it though. It would be wonderful if we could do that.”
Medical expense at the jail is also expected to increase, says Wells, because one individual was arrested with an existing medical condition and that person has been in an intensive care unit for four to five weeks.
“There’s no telling how much that will cost us,” said Wells. “We know medical will go up.”
If a person is in custody and in need of medical assistance, the county is responsible for that medical bill, even if the medical situation was existing at the time of arrest.
“It shouldn’t be that way,” said Bouldin. “But it is.”
Wells explained, “Whatever they’ve got for medical insurance, it stops at the door of the jail. When they walk out the door, it starts back up.”
Also on the horizon is a grant to fund building a new ambulance station/ fire department at Warren County Memorial Airport. While the grant would pay for construction, the county would have to fund staff and equipment for the new facility.
“To man the ambulance station would be $250,000 a year,” said Wells. “That’s the first year. The next year would be more.”
The county is also considering another ambulance – not related to the proposed new facility at the airport. Safety Committee members have requested the purchase of a new ambulance to keep its existing fleet updated when it comes to mileage on the vehicles. A cost estimate is $110,000. The measure was put on hold until January.