4 Central Kentucky counties to create privately financed endowments

Mercer County Judge-Executive Milward Dedman said his county's endowment has grown to $83,000.
Mercer County Judge-Executive Milward Dedman said his county's endowment has grown to $83,000. Lexington Herald-Leader

DANVILLE — Judge-executives in four Central Kentucky counties on Monday endorsed the creation of privately financed community endowments to leverage private dollars for the public good.

The judge-executives of Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties said the endowments will help meet the requests from non-profit agencies, for scholarships or funding for the arts, education, or health and human services.

The endowments will be created through the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation, which enables the charitable wishes of individuals to meet the needs of community agencies.

A county government can only do so much, so Mercer County Judge-Executive Milward Dedman embraced the idea of a county endowment foundation. The Mercer fund began with $10,000 but through continued donations has grown to $83,000. Interest earnings from that will be available to help, for example, a community theater in Harrodsburg, Dedman said.

When the fund grows to $100,000, an advisory group of eight citizens will determine how the earnings will be distributed, Dedman said.

Garrard and Lincoln counties have jointly created a parks endowment to provide funding for park needs. The two counties also plan to create separate community endowments.

In Boyle County, a 2010 report estimates that $400 million in household wealth will be transferred over the next 10 years. If a Boyle community endowment captured 5 percent of that, it would result in $20 million. And a 5 percent payout would mean nearly $1 million, said Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney.

"It would do huge, huge good," McKinney said, "but it would also take the pressure off county government and city governments to fund some of these very worthwhile endeavors that need funding but maybe we can't fund them as a government."

In addition, the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation announced on Monday a partnership with Centre College's Norton Center for the Arts to make free or discounted tickets available to public school students attending matinee performances at Norton. The Arts for the Classroom Ticket Subsidy, or ACTS, program will be available to students in the Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer school districts, and the Burgin and Danville Independent schools.

Wilderness Trace Community Foundation began in 2002 with no assets, but today it has $2.9 million in committed assets, chairman Pete Chiericozzi said. In the fiscal year ending June 30, the foundation provided 127 grants totaling $135,779 that benefited more than 25 non-profit organizations and provided scholarships to 30 students.

Endowments created through community foundations in Kentucky can provide a 20 percent tax credit to individuals and businesses.