FLEMINGSBURG — Fleming County Schools Superintendent Brian Creasman recently spoke at the Fleming County Fiscal Court meeting to clarify why the school district lowered the money paid to the sheriff’s office for tax collection.
Recently, the school board lowered the tax collection rate paid to the sheriff’s office from around 3 percent to 1.5 percent, which is the default amount that must be paid to sheriff’s office.
During the meeting, Fleming County Fiscal Court Judge-Executive Larry Foxworthy told those present that the clerk’s office and the sheriff’s office are funded through fees only that they collect through taxes, auto inspections and other things they do.
“In the past, excess fees go back to the fiscal court,” he said. “Any fees cut affects us as well. We want to know if there was a certain reason for this. Is the school district in dire need of this?”
Andy Plank, the director of business and finance for FCS said the money being paid to the sheriff’s office is only supposed to cover the cost of collecting the taxes for the district.
“Those property taxes that are being collected are being collected on behalf of the school system and the students in Fleming County,” Plank said. “That fee we pay the sheriff’s office is only supposed to cover the expenses of collecting those taxes. There is not supposed to be any balance above and beyond those expenses to collect. I am not sure of what the exact expenses are, but we will pay our fair share.”
Foxworthy said neighboring counties all run around 3 or 4 percent.
Plank said most of those counties have school resource officers provided to the school system at no charge.
“If you see something over 3 percent, there is probably another type of agreement in there,” he said.
Creasman explained to the fiscal court about the cuts school districts face.
“On July 1, no matter what we do, we get an increase on utilities, retirement, health, all of those,” he said. “Education in Kentucky has only received a $15 increase. Just think about that — since 2008. We’re not getting increases, so we have to figure out — and you can’t cut teachers — we are down to the bare bones. We can’t cut anymore. Our board votes on tax rates and increases and they don’t have an option. We are the seventh lowest school district in tax rates. So, these other districts you are looking at, look at their tax rates also. We’re not buying new cars or expensive programs. We start with zero and we work our way up.”
Foxworthy said the county is facing the same issues as the school district. He also said safety is the top priority and any shortfall in the sheriff’s office has to be supplemented by the fiscal court.
Creasman said the topic should be discussed annually.
“The sheriff gave us what it cost him to collect taxes,” he said. “In March, April, that is when we start those negotiations — and we don’t want anyone to do something for free — when we start looking at where we stand — we will look at it and discuss with the board what we need to do. Nowhere did they say that permanently, this is what we were going to do.”
He also told the court that the school district has a lot of support from the community and wants to give back support.
Fleming County Sheriff Gary Kinder said the average rate collection free statewide is 3.12 percent. He also said he does not know if SROs are counted into agreements with other counties when it comes to tax rate collection fees.
“I’m pretty sure Lewis County — they are at a 4 percent — they don’t have a school resource officer and their office is about the same size as mine.”
Kinder said the whole side of Eastern Kentucky is about a 3 or 4 percent.
“There are about nine or 19 counties that are at 1.5 percent,” he said. “Those counties are ones that probably have a big tax base.”
County Attorney Monica Hill said it is required that at least 1.5 percent be paid to the sheriff’s office and is to cover the expenses of collecting the taxes. She also said that any justification for over 1.5 percent should not be negotiable.
“The cap is 4 percent, so if your collection expenses exceed 4 percent, then you are out that extra,” she said. “You should be reimbursed that higher collection rate. If you’re spending more than 1.5 percent it is my opinion, from looking at the statute — it is somewhat vague — it says the thing to be considered is what is the cost to collect. From what I’m looking at, all the expenses you have listed are justified.”
Creasman said this was not something the board did lightly.
“The board didn’t just wake up one morning do this,” Creasman said. “This is not final. We can talk about it and negotiate it.”
Other items considered by the court included:
— Annual review of janitorial contracts.
— Approving a rate increase for Dalmatian Fire Protection. The rate now includes a $45 truck trip fee for each service call and inspection call. The rate will be $95 per hour in Kentucky.