By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
Like many coal-producing counties in Kentucky, Knox County has seen its share of coal-severance tax money go down lately.
The Knox County Fiscal Court wants Frankfort to know that, and they answered back Wednesday with two resolutions for the General Assembly.
One asks for a bigger share of the coal severance money, while the other one wants to keep the mineral severance tax the county gets just like it is.
Both resolutions were passed during a brief regular session held at the Knox County Courthouse in Barbourville.
Judge-Executive J.M. Hall cited revenue from the coal severance tax taking a dramatic drop from $310 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year, to $210 million projected for the current fiscal year.
He blamed increasing regulations from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and America’s push for alternative and renewable energy sources, as the one-two punch for much of the problem.
“Many local governments here in the coal-producing counties of Kentucky have gotten to a point where they’re having problems financially. With the number of unemployed miners and those who worked in the mining support industry increasing daily, plus the reduction of coal severance tax dollars from the state to the coal-producing counties, it adds a burden on us as the demands for our services grow. The mining industry is under pressure, and the economic downturn has reached a crisis level in the coal counties here,” Hall noted.
He told court members Knox County and other coal-producing counties should get 35 percent of the 50 percent coal severance tax money that goes to the state, instead of the current 15 percent.
Patterned after a resolution passed by the Kentucky Coal County Coalition, the court’s resolution requested the state legislature to re-consider expenditures taken from the coal severance tax, and to seriously consider changing the formula to return more severance tax money to the county government’s general funds through the Local Government Economic Assistance Fund (LGEAF).
The other resolution to Frankfort said the Fiscal Court resists any changes to the mineral severance tax statutes, and would support the current statute as it is.
The state’s mineral severance tax is shared with Knox and other mineral-producing counties in the state through the LGEAF.
Hall pointed out legislation was introduced to change various parts of the statutes, which would seriously affect revenues to mineral-producing counties, and possibly eliminate it in some cases.
“If we don’t show support, the state will take that money,” he told the meeting.
Court members approved the County Attorney’s delinquent tax report for September, showing $205,360.82 from tax sales.
The hiring of five new employees were approved. Gary Ison, Tyler Crawford, George Helton, Jason Engle and Gary Bargo will work in the county Road Department.
Also approved was the hiring of Terry Grubb in the county’s Solid Waste Department, replacing Johnny Mills.
Hall reminded those attending the session that “Fright Night,” a Halloween event featuring Trick-or-Treating, would be held Thursday, Oct. 31, on the Court Square in Barbourville from 5:30-7:30 p.m.