New tax software and extra time for training city employees have delayed the publication and sale of delinquent taxes by the City of Jenkins.
At the May meeting of the Jenkins City Council, Mayor Todd Depriest announced that more training in the use of the new software will be required before the city will publish the names of delinquent taxpayers or begin the process of selling their back taxes to a third-party purchaser.
City Attorney Randall Tackett read a resolution authorizing the delay and said the new tax program will take some getting used to for city employees.
“You want to get it right before you publish delinquent taxes,” said Tackett.
In other budgetary matters, Tackett also conducted the first reading of an executive summary of the city’s 2016-2017 budget, which calls for expenditures of $2,030,723 against income of $2,002,423, for a deficit of $28,300. City Finance Officer Robin Kincer told the council the deficit will be corrected by time of the final reading of the budget, but it was left in to reflect the deficit in the sanitation department budget.
“The garbage bill will be in the red,” said Kincer. “We need to do something about that.”
The sanitation deficit is not new business for the council. The matter has been brought up several times, but no action has been taken. In May 2015, Depriest reported that the sanitation department was running a deficit of more than $61,000. At that time, he said he hoped to come up with an equitable solution rather than just making an across-the-board raise that will affect everyone at the same rate. In December 2015, the council again postponed a discussion on sanitation rate hikes until it could gain more solid information about increases in tipping fees and other sanitation-associated costs. During the discussion last May, council member Rebecca Terrill Amburgey suggested that once the sanitation budget is balanced, the council should implement a slight raise each year to keep it from running a deficit.
Depriest referred to a recent increase in sanitation fees levied by the Letcher County Fiscal Court in December 2015, when the court voted to increase sanitation fees by $3 a month, making the household rate $15 per month. One of the reasons for the increase was an ongoing increase of tipping fees, the amount it costs to actually dump garbage at landfills. Depriest told the council that tipping fees have gone up since the court took its action. Amburgey said that increases in tipping fees was “always the trouble with garbage,” and again suggested the council factor in incremental raises each year to keep the budget balanced.
Councilman Rick Damron asked Depriest if the city was still picking up county garbage and Depriest asked if he meant in the Joe’s Branch area, which is not in the city limits. He said it is an ongoing problem and that the problem is that Joe’s Branch residents don’t pay for the pickup, but if the city doesn’t pick it up it will probably go into the creek. He added that since Joe’s Branch residents also don’t pay a water bill, the city has few options in making them pay. Damron said he thought they were supposed to pay the county and the county would then repay the city, but Depriest said that isn’t the case.
“No, they were handed off,” said Depriest. “We tried to hand them back.”
Depriest said that the city has 14 fewer employees than last year and the proposed budget is slightly lower than last year’s $2,142,407 budget. The council took no action on the budget since it was the first reading. The second reading will take place at the next council meeting. The budget is available for public inspection at City Hall.
Depriest also pointed to the water loss report. He said that with the installation of new lines in Dunham, water loss rates are beginning to drop. The city produced 10,756,000 gallons in April and sold 8,057,000, for a difference of 2,699,000 gallons, or a potential loss of 25 percent. Of that amount, 1,537,000 gallons were accounted for, with 1,512,000 coming from line breaks, leaving 1,162,000 gallons unaccounted for, or an 11 percent unaccounted for loss. Depriest told the council that while new lines were being installed in Dunham, workers found five separate lines at the mouth of Improvement Branch that still carried water, all of which will be turned off when installation is complete. Ken Reid of Nesbitt Engineering reported that the Dunham project is 70 percent finished. Reid also said the interconnect line between Jenkins and the Fleming- Neon system is almost ready to be bid and the council voted to authorize Depriest to place bids for the project.
In other city business, the council:
• Heard from Joel Thornbury, a Pike County pharmacist who is seeking the Democratic nomination as the 94th District State Representative attended the meeting. Thornbury told the council members he was there to listen and to learn about their concerns. He said he had spoken to Mayor Depriest before the meeting about some ideas he has for the city.
• Voted unanimously to authorize payment of a requisition for work done on the Dunham Water Project in the amount of $250,654.62. Of that amount, $208,918.53 went to project contractor Ronnie Mullins and Sons, $28,778.40 to Kentucky Glass Lined Tank for the water tank. $5,000 was for KRADD for administrative fees, and $7,957.69 was for project engineer Nesbitt Engineering. In response to a question from Councilman Rick Damron, Nesbitt Engineering’s Reid said bids have been taken for work on the bridge at upper Camden and that construction should begin by mid-June.
• Learned that the Jenkins Swimming Pool will open on May 27 barring bad weather.
• Learned that the Jenkins Homecoming Festival will be held August 25-27.