Mayor explains city's stance on county occupational tax ask

Sep. 6—The county's 1% occupational tax — and the city's share of that money — has become as controversial a topic now as it was when the tax was initiated in 1994.

It began with London Mayor Randall Weddle's presentation at the last meeting of Laurel County Fiscal Court of a proposal to increase the city's share of the tax from 30% to 40%.

Mayor Weddle described his position on the tax split at the end of Tuesday's city council meeting, stating that the Laurel County Fiscal Court has not produced the documentation the city leaders have requested regarding that split of the money.

Weddle had the city's IT team show copies of an interlocal agreement between the two government entities that ended on June 30, 2007, and allotted the city 25% of the occupational tax.

"Sometime between 2007 and today, there was a 'gentleman's agreement' that the city would get 30%. We don't have a contract to show you because there wasn't one," Weddle said. "If you take $10-15 million what is the city's percent of that? We still don't know."

Weddle said city officials had sent numerous open records requests to the Laurel County Fiscal Court but had not received the information they had requested.

"The KRS spells it out here. If we enacted our own occupational tax, the county could not stack above that. This KRS plainly states that if a county has more than 30,000 population the county cannot tax," he said. "We actually have an ordinance — and its in your packets council — where the city has its own tax. It was passed and published years ago. It says that the city is entitled to 100% of every business that is located in our city limits. We're not doing that. We're not trying to affect the county. But legally, we could. We're not doing that....

"What we're trying to do is further our goal to get some clarity and transparency with our taxpayers," the mayor continued. "It is important that we know as a city what our share of the occupational tax funds," he added. "And we need to do that with an interlocal agreement."

He quoted KRS 65.230 adding that the city cannot do business with the county without an interlocal agreement. He added that the city has paid $434,120.83 in administrative fees for the occupational tax. The county's records, he said, lists a $525,000 operational cost for the office.

"If we're getting 30% of the deal, then we should be paying 30% of the costs," Weddle said. "That's not fair. Think of what that $300,000 could have done for the city."

Weddle also said the city could not find records of their payments for the 9-1-1 Center. For the first time, he said the city's budget now includes $500,000 for that operation. He added that if the county had been footing the bill for that service, they can take their money back and the additional 10% of occupational tax the city has requested would not hurt the county budget.

He then defended the actions of the city staff who have been working on the records.

"I love my county and I'm worried about the people in the county as much as I am the city," he said. "But I was elected to come in here and fight the corruption and be transparent. How can we begin to provide services when we're maxed out as it is?"

Mayor Weddle made reference to a news article "that we produced an illegal document." While this newspaper had questioned when city council had discussed the proposal, there was no allusion to its legality in last week's article on the matter.

On Tuesday, the mayor said council approval was not required.

"There is no contract that I produce that has to be approved by city council. I can write any contract without their approval," he said.

Weddle mentioned the water lines from 1931 needing replaced, explaining that although that money comes from the London Utility Commission, the city government is responsible to replace the sidewalks and pavement affected from those projects. He also said growth of the city was dependent on receiving the funds owed to the city from occupational tax monies, which will better assist in the services provided to city residents — and future growth.

"I was elected to be transparent and I will do this. If you want the truth, we have it. I am passionate about it and I'm upset about it. You can call me and my family whatever you want to but don't call my staff liars and don't say they're not doing their jobs because they are," he continued. "Because of their hard work, we've discovered the truth and we've been duped. That's not going to sit well with the fiscal court. We've been asking for documents since February and March. Produce the documents, and that's that."