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Jenkins officials delay decision on tax hike


The Jenkins City Council this week postponed a decision on whether to raise taxes on personal property, and the decision will hang in the balance for the coming month.

At Monday’s city council meeting, a potential increase of property taxes and watercraft and motor vehicle taxes was tabled until the September meeting so Mayor Todd Depriest and the council can get more information on city finances. Although Depriest told the council members that at present the city is barely able to keep its head above water, they declined to cast a vote.

Councilman Rick Damron raised the familiar issue of the relatively high taxes levied by the Jenkins Independent School District, at $.87 per $100 on personal property. Damron said there is an obvious need to increase revenue, but Depriest said the school tax interferes with the city’s ability to raise the taxes it needs. He added that since the city lowered taxes to help compensate for an occupational tax that went into effect in 2012, the losses from the tax cut, along with losses from eliminating a fee for city stickers for vehicles, have nearly offset the financial benefit of the occupational tax.

Depriest said it has become difficult to keep city vehicles on the road and to maintain services to the public in the current state of affairs, and that he would like to look at improving city services. He added that the city is doing the best it can, but things are very close. The council voted unanimously to table the vote on setting property taxes and a few minutes later, voted to table the vote on motor vehicles and watercraft.

The council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to support the 2020 Census and to urge every citizen to participate. Census worker Robin Lee told the council that not only is the Census mandated by the United States Constitution, it is also the tool that determines the apportionment of congressional seats in the United States House of Representatives, as well as the Kentucky General Assembly, and in local and county government. Lee said the Census also determines how much federal funding each state gets and how much goes to each county in the state.

Lee said the Census Bureau does not share information with government enforcement agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or with local and state police. She urged everyone to participate and said that in the 2010 Census, 22 percent of the people in Letcher County did not respond. That means they were not counted and federal funding was around 20 percent less that it would have been if everyone had participated.

Lee also told the council that the Census Bureau will be hiring part-time workers to serve as census takers for $14 an hour. She said the jobs will last for a little over a year and added that the Bureau is also hiring management personnel at a significantly higher rate.

There are three ways to complete a census form — online, mail in a paper form, or give the information directly to a census worker. Job applicants can also go to the U.S. Census Bureau website and apply for employment.

In other business, the council returned to the topic of four-wheelers causing problems in the city. The members agreed that only a small number of riders disobey laws and endanger the public, but that small group creates a large problem for the city and law enforcement. A number of suggestions were raised, including registration and stickers for all riders in city limits, taxes on the vehicles, and eventual confiscation of repeat law breakers’ vehicles. The council took no action on the matter, but Depriest said he would assemble ordinances from other cities in the region that allow all-terrain vehicles to use their streets. The council stressed that it cannot change state laws that regulate the use of state highways and ATVs are illegal on state roads. Depriest said the original purpose of allowing ATVs in town was to allow riders and campers to come into town to buy gas and supplies, and to leave to ride on designated trails. Police Chief Josh Richardson told the council the Jenkins Police Department has written 12 citations for ATV riders in the last month.

Mayor Depriest also reminded the council that the Jenkins Days Festival will be held from August 22 to 24 and asked city residents to help by cleaning up their property. He said it is important for the city to show its best face. He said the recent cruise-in was very successful and that the city’s Bike Nite will be held every month on the third Saturday. The Jenkins Pool is still open and will stay open daily until school starts. After that it will be open on weekends and available for parties. The sidewalk extending to the high school has received final approval from the state and bids will probably be let for bids in September.

Depriest also said the city’s new recreation center, located in the SmileFaith Center, will be opened on August 24 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. He added that the overlook on US 23, near the Virginia state line that was recently installed by the Letcher County Tourism Commission, is drawing a lot of visitors. He said a group of area businesses, including H.O.M.E.S. and Double Kwik, is building a picnic area, and that American Electric Power plans to plow an area near the overlook to plant the type of flowers and shrubs that attract butterflies.

The Jenkins Police Department responded to 83 calls of service in July and issued nine citations. It issued 18 warnings, served three warrants, and two summonses. The department also made 12 arrests. One was drug related and three were for domestic violence. It also answered four collisions with injury, seven collisions without injury, and made five motorist assists. Officer Hunter Holbrook will be graduating from the Department of Criminal Justice Training Police Academy on August 8.

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