Annexations move forward

Prestonsburg City Council Member Shag Branham, second from left, tells officials that council members were a “little aghast” to consider raising taxes at a meeting Monday. Council Member B.D. Nunnery, second from right, said he believes raising taxes while attempting to annex new areas “sends the wrong message.”

The Prestonsburg City Council opted to not raise taxes and took steps to move forward with several annexations during a meeting on Monday.

A request for a motion to approve an ordinance that would have increased property tax rates from 23.1 cents per $100 of assessed value to 24.5 cents per $100 of assessed value was not answered at the Oct. 21 meeting. If the ordinance had been approved, it would have also decreased tangible personal property taxes from 38.76 cents per $100 of assessed value to 36.58 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The council unanimously voted, instead, to amend the ordinance, which was proposed last month, to adopt the same rates that were adopted last year.

“I think that everybody’s a little aghast at the fact that we’re raising taxes at a time when it’s difficult for a lot of people in our community,” Council Member Shag Branham said.

City Clerk Sharon Setser said the city would lose about $25,000 if the taxes aren’t increased. She reported that the proposed increase came at the recommendation of state officials, who recommended this rate so the city would gain the same amount of revenue as it did last year.

“I think we as a council could easily find $25,000 somewhere in our budget to re-appropriate instead of putting it on our citizens, further onto our citizens,” Branham said.

Mayor Les Stapleton said the city has not raised taxes in seven years and he suggested that it is better to increase rates slightly now, as opposed to having to approve more substantial rates at a later date.  

“Well, I will say this. We haven’t raised taxes in seven years,” he said. “I stood that ground. I stood on the same ground that you have many years ago ... What’s going to happen is, if we keep putting this off and putting this off, eventually, when we try to do it to catch up, it’s going to be substantial.”

He described the increase as a “cost of living” increase that keeps the city at its current level of revenue. He said the city would lose money if the taxes aren’t increased.

Council Member B.D. Nunnery mentioned new businesses opening in town and proposed annexations.

“In my opinion, it would be a bad time to be raising taxes, raise taxes and go out and ask people to come in the city limits,” he said. “I think it sends the wrong message ...”

Council Member Don Willis also voiced opposition.

“I’m in the same position I’ve been in for the last seven years. We just can’t do it,” he said.

The vote to amend the ordinance to reflect last year’s rates was unanimous.

During the meeting, the council also unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance annexing properties along the rail to trail project, taking in about 160 acres that span about 10 miles from West Prestonsburg to David. At the meeting, the council also approved hiring Jig Saw Enterprises of Pikeville to complete work there for $20,100.

Stapleton said the city is only annexing the rail trail and the right-of-way in that area.

The council also held the first reading of an ordinance that would allow the city to finalize the annexation of Ky. 321. Officials reported that the city approved the intent to annex this area in 2014 and the process was never finalized.

If that ordinance is approved after a second reading, Prestonsburg city limits would expand from the Ky. 321 intersection near Highlands ARH to the Johnson County line near the airport. Setser said this annexation is for Ky. 321 and the right-of-way and does not include the annexation of any property owners or businesses. She reported, however, that residents along that route would have the opportunity to voluntarily come into the city if the annexation is final.

The council also held the first reading of another ordinance announcing the city’s intent to annex Highlands ARH Medical Center property near the Ky. 321 intersection. If the intent to annex is approved at a second reading, the city would then move forward with another ordinance declaring the city’s annexation, which would require two readings and a vote.

In other news, the council also:

• Paid $60,500 in bills.

• Discussed problems with Suddenlink, with officials reporting that Prestonsburg no longer has a franchise agreement with the company. Stapleton mentioned a class action lawsuit in Kentucky and other states against the company.

• Appointed Sheena Maynard of Lou’s Place for Pets and council members Brittainy Branham, Don Willis and Shag Branham to a committee to review the city’s animal cruelty ordinance.

• Discussed the Ky. 114, Ky. 1428 intersection project, with officials reporting the city had an agreement for the removal of signs in that location for the construction of a more attractive “Welcome to Prestonsburg” scene, but the signs were not removed. Brittainy Branham reported the pending sale of the sign company will delay the project for some time.

• Held a closed session discussion about opioid litigation and a discussion with Lifeguard Ambulance, citing an open meetings exemption that allows closed discussions with businesses if open discussions would jeopardize the retention, expansion or upgrade of the business.

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