From the Magistrate's Desk: Taxes

Printer-friendly versionPDF version

Citizens of Magoffin County,

One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." I believe that and want to make sure that everyone understands what happened with the tax rates at the Special Called Meeting, Tuesday October 25, 2016. 

The action in that meeting did not pass or approve any county tax rates, because the county judge failed to provide the fiscal court with the rates in a timely manner, per KRS 132.0225. After first voting against the motion, I then voted to only acknowledge the rates that are mandated by Kentucky law ( I was also advised by the Kentucky Department of Local Government that I had no choice under the law. 

The reason we are in this position is because the Magoffin County judge did not place any tax rates on the agenda within the statutory 45-day deadline. I don’t believe the fiscal court would have passed any lower rates, anyway, because there has never been any attempt by the county judge to help the taxpayers in Magoffin County. 

In fact, since his election in 2006 and following terms the current county judge has increased real property rates by nearly 100% (26.5 in 2006 now maxed out in 2016 at 50.0), while our neighbors in Johnson (8.8 cents per hundred) and Floyd ( 12.1 cents per hundred) have significantly lower tax rates, and in fact have decreased their respective rates since 2006. Not only do those counties have lower rates, they have more industry, restaurants, motels, and shopping opportunities, all while we here in Magoffin County have the highest documented unemployment in Kentucky ( and, according to the Wall Street Journal, we are #6 on the top 51 highest unemployment rates in the entire United States of America. (…/51-counties-with-the-highest-une…/10/ ) 

The real property tax rate for Magoffin County local government IS THE HIGHEST in the state of Kentucky. (…/Publications/Pages/Property-Tax-Rat… )

That is a fact, no disputing. The rate is maxed out, per section 157 of the KY Constitution, which states that no County can levy a rate higher than 50 cents per hundred, and, according to the Department of Local Government, no other county is at the maximum. ( ). 

KRS 132.0225 states that taxing districts must set a rate within 45 days or the compensating rate must be used. That is a fact, and there are Supreme Court rulings to back this up. At the regular meeting in October I made a motion to keep the real property rates the same as 2015 with no increases because I had believed based on my experience that there were some exclusions to the 45 days, but those exclusions do not apply to county governments, so I could not get the rates lowered.

Hard to believe that an administration that has been in power since January 2007 would miss a deadline like that considering the KY Department of Local Government both called and sent a letter to the Magoffin County judge/executive regarding the tax rates for Magoffin County on July 12, 2016. 

Therefore, there is no excuse for the Magoffin County judge not placing tax rates on the agenda within the deadline. The Magoffin County Fiscal Court met two times in regular session within the 45-day window. By not presenting the rates to the fiscal court within the 45 days that made the decision on YOUR tax rates a unilateral decision by the Magoffin County judge executive. 

As a magistrate, I am limited in what I can do. By law I am a legislative representative for District 3 on the fiscal court. I have no power under Kentucky law to direct day-to-day activities and I am not privy to what comes in the mail to the courthouse, so there is no way I could know when the certified assessment arrived. 

The magistrate's power comes through actions taken in the fiscal court meetings. When it comes to the agendas, I am at the mercy of the county judge, who under Kentucky law, is the presiding officer of the fiscal court, which means he runs the meetings and sets the agenda, but he does not outrank the magistrates on the fiscal court and does not tell me how to vote. I was raised to be my own man and I AM! Yet, as to be expected, there are misguided/misinformed folks in our community who think someone tells me what to do. I can’t help that and they are free to believe what they want. It is a free country, but let me be crystal clear! I make my decisions as a magistrate and cast my votes on the fiscal court for what I believe is legal, and what is best for the people of Magoffin County and our children. 

I know some want me to react in a more aggressive manner in the meetings, but I will not stoop down and act like grade school children arguing at recess in fiscal court meetings, regardless of how bad the county judge berates me. Nor will I participate in or use the fiscal court meetings as a forum to make personal and political attacks, as has been done recently by the county judge. I love Magoffin County and I am there to represent District 3 and to conduct the business of Magoffin County for the betterment of our community and nothing more. 

Matt Wireman
Magistrate, District 3