Jackson Co. raises tax to balance budget

MCKEE — An Eastern Kentucky county has increased its occupational tax in an effort to shore up its deficit and balance its budget.

Despite pleas from citizens to not pass the tax, Jackson County Judge-Executive William O. Smith said something had to be done — and cuts in spending weren't enough. WYMT-TV reported that Smith said the sheriff's department owes the Fiscal Court nearly $300,000; in addition, the county is now paying for a new police department and coal severance funds have decreased by more than 50 percent in the past year.

"It creates more financial responsibility to support the police department, even though we were in effect supporting the sheriff's deputies to a large extent. And that's where a lot of the deficit came from is that we were not reimbursed for the monies that we had paid into the sheriff's office," Smith said.

Sheriff Denny Peyman says his agency has always been short on funding.

"In the past and current, it has gone forever, and I think all small counties operate this way. The sheriff's office, who is responsible for taxes, doesn't have enough money to function year-round, so during tax time we are able to pay all of our bills and pay our salaries and stuff," he said.

Some residents argued during the Fiscal Court meeting on Tuesday that the added tax would create a hardship.

"It's going to take more and more out of my pocket, and we just don't have it to give," said resident Gene Gatts.

The county has the eighth-highest unemployment rate in the state.

Officials voted 2-1 to pass the .85 percent tax, which will be added to the 1 percent tax that citizens already pay. The new tax goes into effect on Nov. 1.

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