Poorhouse Stream: Let There Be City Revenue!
Later this year, Ewing, Kentucky, should have its first local revenue stream in decades. Better drainage, support for the fire department, new Christmas decorations– there's plenty to spend it on.
Downtown Ewing, Kentucky, (pop. 300) has mightly fine asphalt, and with a new tax in place, other parts of the community should see improvements
Photo: Tammy Thomas
Being an incorporated Kentucky city with no income puts city commissioners in a tough spot, but it does make the budget easy. No revenue. No spending. Budget complete. The story of how Ewing (pop. about 300) came to be a city without revenue is for another day. Life with some funding is today’s story.
In Fleming County, Ewing is the only incorporated city other than Flemingsburg, the county seat. Ewing does receive some state money, but use of those funds is restricted to certain purposes. For thirty years, Ewing has survived by relying on a few grants, by receiving a fee for being the issuing entity for some bonds the city commission did not understand that financed projects we were not involved with but keep getting notices showing defaults we have no control over — and by holding a few fund raisers. Our restricted funds have allowed our streets to be possibly the best kept of any small town. We get enough asphalt each year to keep all city streets in great condition.
Ewing's memorial plaque for Rep. 'Pete' Worthington
Photo : Tammy Thomas
Up until his untimely death, our state representative was from Ewing, lived in Ewing and liked to see Ewing improve. He helped find us funds for a project every few years, never a lot and seldom a large project, but enough that it seemed we were viable. He passed away in 2000 and with him went our project every couple of years.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky only allows cities a few ways to raise revenue: property taxes, payroll taxes and insurance tax premiums are three of them. Now, the Fleming County Fiscal Court has opened a new avenue for our city to have a true budget and a constant source of revenue. In the middle of 2007, Fleming County Fiscal Court passed an insurance premium tax on the entire county, except for the city of Flemingsburg. (They already had such a tax.) So in January of 2008 the city of Ewing passed our own insurance premium tax. If the residents of Ewing are forced to pay it, as they will be, it seems only fair that the city of Ewing collect it. And by Kentucky statute, an incorporated city takes precedence over the county, regardless of timing.
The county judge was not exactly pleased with our action, but we proceeded in the proper manner. We contacted the Department of Insurance in Frankfort. We used the pro-bono services of a Flemingsburg attorney who is originally from our part of the county — the West End — to guide us. We consulted with other local communities going through the same process. And come July 1, 2008, the city of Ewing will have its revenue source. We should see our first checks in October or November 2008 and every three months thereafter.
With revenues from the new tax, the city of Ewing may join forces with the local school and turn the playground into a community park
Photo: Tammy Thomas
We have made some assumptions as to the amount of revenue. We counted the number of homes and structures in the community and, using a low-average insurance premium, came to the figure of about $ 5,000. We assumed that vehicle insurance would bring in about the same amount, maybe a little more. So we should have about $ 12,000 to use for city improvements.
(Though all insurance policies except worker's compensation and health insurance will be subject to the tax, we didn't calculate liability policies, life insurance and inland marine into our estimate. Our attorney believes the actual amount of tax revenue will be about twice our estimate.)
Ewing needs better sidewalks, and more of them
Photo: Tammy Thomas
We plan to bank about 75% of the first year's income to gain a better idea of what to expect and what to budget. Our needs are few, but the ones we have will be rather expensive. Here are some to the improvement Ewing needs:
- More and better sidewalks in our community.
- A city park or, working with our local school, enough improvements to make its playground more of a community park.
- Better storm water runoff and drainage.
- A municipal sewer system as a part of a regional plan. (The insurance-tax funds will not go toward that project, but it is a drastic need.)
- Completion of our railroad depot project, now 65% renovated. (Already we’re using the finished portion for city meetings and other events.)
- Funding for the volunteer fire department, always a need.
- New Christmas decorations for the community.
It will be interesting to see how much revenue we receive and how our city commission reacts to having a steady income stream. Our city treasurer is rather conservative, and our mayor likes to see some progress and improvements (the latter would be me, and I too , lean toward the fiscally conservative side). A meeting in the middle can only benefit the community, so that Ewing remains viable. Heck, maybe we can even be like our generous president and refund some of our residents’ money.