• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Hawkins touts tax hike for new high school

Woodford County Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins spent more than a half-hour before the Versailles City Council Tuesdaydiscussing the need for a new high school - and a six cent increase in property tax rates to pay for it. The decision on whether to raise property tax rates is the school board's. Hawkins said there will be three public meetings on the matter next month, which may include scheduled appearances before Woodford Fiscal Court and the Midway City Council. Hawkins said a new six cents "facilities" tax per $100 in assessed value would cost the owner of a $150,000 home an additional $90 per year and would raise $1.5 million annually. He said with no facilities tax, the county couldn't afford a new high school until 2028, because the existing bonding capacity of $13.8 million is far less than the $56 million needed for the new high school. The new high school would go on a 61-acre tract adjacent to Woodford County Middle School purchased in 2012 for that purpose. Woodford County High School, which opened in 1964, would then be used for the district's central office, the alternative school and the adult education program. Mayor Brian Traugott preceded the meeting by handing out a sheet showing property tax rates in nine Central Kentucky cities, only one of which, Georgetown, was lower than that of Versailles. Traugott said he unequivocally supported what Hawkins was doing. Tax rates The council unanimously approved tax rates for 2018, including a cut in personal property taxes. The real property tax rate will remain at 5.6 cents per $100, the motor vehicle and watercraft tax rate will remain at 12 cents, and the personal tax rate will drop from 10.35 cents to 9.78 cents. Police station The council unanimously approved a deal with Citizens Commerce National Bank to borrow up to $4.5 million at a 1.5 percent interest rate for two years for the new police station. Traugott said the city had approached all six local lending institutions in the city limits to finance the construction of the new police station and received four responses. "It could not have come back better in our favor," Traugott said of the deal. The council also heard first reading of an ordinance authorizing the issuance of up to $4.5 million in bonds for the police station. Police deal with county The council unanimously approved a resolution as a first offer to Woodford Fiscal Court on the continuation of the 2004 police merger agreement. The offer will be presented to the court, but Traugott said terms are negotiable, and that the terms had already been shared with County Attorney Alan George and some magistrates. The 10-year extension would take effect next July 1 and, Traugott said, offer a relatively easy opt-out for either side after three years. It would continue present payments from the county of 38 percent of operating expenses and 50 percent of capital expenses. Unknown is what the City of Versailles intends to ask the City of Midway to contribute for continued police protection. Presently, Midway pays Versailles $100,000 annually, and Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said he believed Versailles might ask for more money. Full-time mayor First reading was held on an ordinance that would make the position of mayor a full-time job and nearly double the pay beginning Jan. 1, 2019 - after the next election. The ordinance would raise the pay from a little more than $34,000 to $66,500 and prohibit the mayor from holding outside employment. It also designates the mayor as the Alcoholic Beverage Administrator. Newsletter The council held its third discussion on the question of whether to include a newsletter in city water and sewer bills. Council Member Laura Dake, who proposed the idea and designed a mock-up of a first issue, said the ultimate goal was to involve and engage people, and that a newsletter could generate great ideas from the public. It would cost $440 per issue, and proposals on the newsletter's frequency have ranged from monthly to quarterly. A vote on whether to form a committee to explore public communications, including the newsletter, passed four to two, with council members Ann Miller and Mike Coleman voting no. Dake and council members Mary Ellen Bradley and Ken Kerkhoff volunteered for the committee. Quotes The council unanimously approved low bids for two new pumps at the Cedar Ridge Lift Station to Straeffer Pump and Supply for $4,937 apiece. Public Works Director Bart Miller said the second pump went out after the council's agenda was printed, and at the request of Ann Miller, he said he'd ask whether a discount was available for purchasing two. The council also unanimously approved a low bid of $4,462 from Xylem Water Solutions for a new pump for the Dan Drive Lift Station. Tourism Commission The council unanimously approved the appointments of Maria Bohanan and Midway City Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher to the Woodford County Tourism Commission.

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