Tuesday, August 20, 2019

City plans lower real-estate tax, online water-bill payments; council delays open-carry ordinance

Midway citizens would pay a slightly lower tax on their real estate, and be able to pay their water bills online, under plans laid out at the City Council meeting Monday evening.

The council heard first reading of an ordinance to set the real-estate tax at 7 cents per $100, down from the 7.5 cents levied last year. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said the lower rate would generate the same amount of money, because real-estate values are up, including demand for property.

"I don't see why we should punish poorer folks because we don't have enough housing," Vandegrift said. The council has an Affordable Housing Committee looking at the issue.

The tax rate on personal property would remain 7.5 cents per $100, under a separate ordinance. Second readings and passage of both ordinances are scheduled for Sept. 3, a Tuesday because of Labor Day.

Last year the council reduced property-tax rates 25 percent because the city is receiving so much more from its occupational taxes on payrolls and net profits as a result of business expansions, mainly in Midway Station.

Water bills: The mayor can institute optional electronic payment of water bills without council approval, but Vandegrift said he wanted to make sure the members had no objections. The fee for electronic payment is expected to be 3 to 4 percent of a bill. The mayor said he would move forward as long as the change could be smoothly integrated into the city's software.

While there was no dissent about online payments, Council Member Logan Nance said he didn't think the city should assess a penalty for late payment of water bills. Council Member Bruce Southworth said the late fee is an incentive to pay. Council Member John Holloway said he thought more time could be allowed before the penalty is charged.

Vandegrift said he had no objection to giving customers more time to pay. He said the penalty was probably adopted "when the city didn't have any money . . . so the city could pay the water bill" from Kentucky American Water Co., its wholesale supplier.

Open-carry law: The council delayed first reading of an ordinance for an "entertainment destination center," which would allow drinkers to go in and out of licensed premises with alcoholic beverages as long as they stay within the designated boundaries of the EDC.

Vandegrift said he delayed the reading until Sept. 3 because city attorney Phil Moloney didn't think the ordinance should specify the hours, in case the "open carry" ordinance presents a security problem and a quick change is needed without waiting for two readings of a revised ordinance. The council had informally agreed to make the hours 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"His concern was, we may get into this and realize that we don't have adequate security to truly man this," because at any given time the Versailles Police Department has no more than one officer assigned to the Midway area at any given time, and "We need to have the ability to pull this back quickly," Vandegrift said. The ordinance would allow the mayor to do that without council action.

Second reading and passage of the ordinance would be Sept. 16. Vandegrift said it wouldn't take effect until Oct. 1. "It would be ideal," he said, to start it before the fall meet at Keeneland Race Course, which runs Oct. 5-26.

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