Whitesburg KY

Fiscal court holds ‘special’ meeting, clarifies action on severance money to be used for project in Pike County

The Letcher County Fiscal Court didn’t quite make it out of the 2011–2012 Fiscal Year without having to conduct a called meeting to take care some financial business. The court met Thursday and transferred $7,000 in funds for payrolls, labor, election officers, and the chief deputy jailer to meet budgetary deadlines before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. The court also approved a payment from the Letcher County Board of Education that went into the County Forestry Fund for $685.30.

County Treasurer Phillip Hampton told the court he hadn’t anticipated the need for a called meeting, but a neglected memo advising county workers who wanted to “sell” vacation time (to take pay rather than vacation that would expire at the end of the fiscal year) had made the meeting necessary. Hampton said county workers are usually notified that selling vacation must be done by the first pay period in June but the memo reminding them didn’t go out.

The meeting gave Hampton and several court members the opportunity to provide information on various issues, though, and Hampton told the court it had finished another year in the black and added that most county accounts have decent balances for the coming year. Hampton said he expects severance tax payments will be down for the coming fiscal year and July’s payment should provide a template for the rest for the year.

Judge/Executive Jim Ward told the court he wanted to provide some clarification on a multicounty severance tax request approved by the court at its regular July meeting concerning a natural gas filling station at the junction of US 23 and US 119 in Coal Run Village near Pikeville. Ward said the multi-county allocation is for the overall use at the Pike County Industrial Park and added that helping to develop the Pike County park benefits Letcher County by providing jobs and furthers the good record of cooperation between Letcher and Pike counties.

Ward told the court he does think the possibility of converting cars and trucks over to natural gas as the fuel source will benefit both the gas and coal industry by helping to raise natural gas prices. He said fueling vehicles with natural gas will reduce some of the current glut of natural gas in the United States and raise prices for gas, which he said will also benefit the coal industry by making coal more competitive.

Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming said it is good policy to help Pike County in multi-county severance tax requests because Pike County has been very cooperative in helping Letcher County with its requests and the multicounty tax receipts don’t take anything away from Letcher County. Fleming also asked Judge Ward to explain gas severance receipts so people who don’t understand how the severance taxes are set will understand better.

Ward said that all “mineral” taxes, coal, gas, and oil, are grouped together as severance taxes and a portion is returned to the counties that produce them. Ward said the amount of severance tax the county gets from coal is about the same as it gets from gas at present and added that most people are so used to calling it “coal severance tax” it sometimes gets confusing.

Ward later said that Waste Reduction Technologies, a Knox County company that has proposed installing a proprietary technology in Letcher County at no cost that uses compressed steam to reduce organic garbage to usable briquettes, told him it is in negotiations for a site to locate its machinery. The site is not located at Millstone, where residents have said they do not want it located.

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