With Harlan County facing substantial reductions in Coal Severance Tax funds, Magistrate David Kennedy and Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop discussed the issue with Harlan Fiscal Court in a special meeting on Monday.
The discussion followed their attendance at a recent meeting in Frankfort on the tax fund.
“From this quarter to last quarter, coal severance in Harlan County is down 30 percent,” said Grieshop. “Statewide the drop is approximately 8 percent.”
Kennedy said the real issue is the re-structuring of the coal severance tax for distribution.
“We’re pushing the state legislators to take a look at taking money off the top, bottom and the middle before it is being distributed out,” said Kennedy. “We’d like them to look at making sure projects such as Rupp Arena, downtown Lexington and Operation UNITE not come out of coal severance and be funded another way.”
Grieshop said last fiscal year ending June 30, coal companies operating in Harlan County “sent up $41 million in coal severance tax to Frankfort.”
“We may have gotten 15 percent — not 50 percent if you start adding up all the coal severance monies that was sent in through LGEA (local government economic assistance) and for projects — you’re more in line with 15 percent,” said Grieshop. “It shows it’s not really being distributed in a fair way. If we got 50 percent of $41 million we wouldn’t be talking to state government about anything. We would have what we need to move our county forward. When they say 50 percent that’s after they take off the top, middle and the bottom.”
Kennedy said the proposal is coal producing counties get funding first and then all the “little add-ons” would be funded if any additional funds are available.
“They also told us in the future there will be no multi-county coal severance funding,” said Kennedy. “We will be going back to Frankfort on Feb. 20.”
Grieshop said coal severance funds “in natural dollars” were down $60,000 in a quarter. He said 30 percent of that has to go to the county road department.
He said it takes $800,000 to keep the jail’s operation balanced.
“I don’t see coal severance funds in the future climbing back up,” said Grieshop. “Holding at best is all we can expect.”
Treasurer Ryan Creech said the county had budgeted $1.6 million from coal severance funds and they have “brought in approximately $760,000.”
He said the court needs to look at “trimming the budget down.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, firstname.lastname@example.org