Community Matters - Updates
Vol. 5 October 26, 2016
Tax Bill Explanation
As the Fall Season is upon us here in Owen County, unfortunately so is Tax Season. For this quarterly update of my Community Matters column, I wanted to address the area of Real Estate tax bills to try and shed some light on why some of you may have been surprised to see a significant increase in your taxes owed while others saw very minor change.
This year the Owen County PVA office in conjunction with the Kentucky Department of Revenue, was forced to implement an overall re-assessment of all Agricultural land classification values. This change required that all agricultural properties of a specific land group be assessed at the same amount per acre. The logic of this is to provide a level playing field so all land owners within a specific land classification are paying the same amount per acre. Whereas some agricultural properties in Owen County had not been re-assessed for many years, others were valued at current market rates. This change was only made on AGRICULTURAL property. Other than normal operations, all other areas of assessment were not changed – residential, commercial, mobile homes, etc.
As you can see from the graphs below the actual tax rate for Owen County Government and most other districts went down. This was done by agencies accepting the compensating rate as presented by the Kentucky Department of Revenue, therefore allowing County Government and other districts to receive the same dollars as received last year. There was also a slight increase in the School District rate as well as the Extension District. Below you will see a comparison of a sample Owen County AGRICULTURAL Tax Bill and a RESIDENTIAL Tax Bill from 2015 and 2016 with explanations. You can see that the rates for county government and library tax DECREASED while the Owen County Schools and UK Extension Office rates INCREASED slightly. If your tax bill went up significantly it is due to the ASSESSED VALUE being increased – Not due to a large increase in the tax rates. There was no county wide reassessment of Residential property. Therefore, the main reason for a significant increase in any tax bill is due to adjusting the AGRICULTURAL property’s assessed value.
It should also be noted that the disbursement of your total paid is as follows. 10.6% to State, 10.6% to Owen County Government, 56.1% to Owen County School District, 4.9% to Local Health District, 4.4% to Extension District, 9.6% to Library District, 1.4% to Soil Conservation District and 2.4% to a Fire Member Ship Fee.
I hope you will find the following comparisons of Agricultural and Residential tax bills with assessed values helpful as you try to understand why your taxes owed may have changed. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Owen County PVA office at 502-484-5172 or my office at 502-484-3405.
Owen County Judge/Executive
Vol. 4 July 18, 2016
State of The County Address - 2016
What a privilege and honor it is to represent Owen County as your County Judge Executive, and give my second state of the county address. It's hard to believe that a full year has passed since I gave my first state of the county address. This is a great opportunity to be able to engage with such a large group of community leaders and involved individuals. I am pleased to inform the citizens of Owen County about the state of our county of where we’ve been, and to share the vision of where we are headed in the future.
I've now been in office for just over 18 months and while there may not be any visible changes in Owen County, behind the scenes we've made tremendous strides. We're in a great position to launch Owen County as a leader of community growth and sustainable living for our families and other families across the Commonwealth. It's with great pleasure I am able to outline the exciting path that we are on moving forward.
I'm not one to dwell much on the past, but I also know that you need to understand and learn from where we have been in order to move more efficiently forward. History tells us that we can't continue to do things in the same manner we've always done them and expect a different outcome. Abraham Lincoln once said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." That's exactly what I strived to do when I took office 18 months ago, with a mission driven agenda, which I outlined for you last year.
In my last address I mentioned the fact that we had outspent our receipts a few of the past years, and unfortunately that may have been misinterpreted by some people in a way to indicate the budget wasn't balanced. In fact, we had plenty of prior year carryover to cover those costs. The point I was trying to make is that overspending cannot be sustained forever. So I address you here today and I'm proud to announce that this year for 2016 budget, which just ended June 30, we under-spent our revenues by 11 percent - equaling just over $360,000. That's a net positive of a little more than $600,000 from the 2015 budget, and that's just the general budget. We've also formulated and dispersed the road fund budget in the same manner and have increased its unencumbered balance by just over $600,000 as well.
In addition, the reassessment of the insurance license fee has allowed us to dedicate $200,000 to a restricted rainy day fund. This rainy day fund will allow us to be prepared for unexpected expenditures and provide seed money for many available and much needed grant opportunities. This hasn’t been a possibility in the past.
This has all been accomplished through a major and continuing effort to reorganize Owen County. The reorganization included reformulation of the budget for more transparent activities; decreased spending by implementing cost containing procedures such as spending justifications; increased revenues through aggressive service negotiation and debt collection. We are continually seeking alternative funding for things that were once considered normal expenditures. Now that we know where we've been and we know where we are, let's talk a little bit about where we're headed.
With the reorganization of the public transit program, we no longer use general fund dollars to provide those services, it's now creating a revenue surplus. Those revenues have been vital to the expansion of the program, and of course to restoring funds to the general budget. Starting this year, we will be expanding our public transit service into Grant County and providing non-emergency medical transportation to folks in that area. This will also create much-needed job opportunities and excess revenues from that program. If all goes as planned, Owen County Public Transit will continue to be the preferred public transit agency in the rural portion of the Northern Kentucky region and one of the best in the state.
The reorganization of the Owen County EMS service, has allowed us to spend more wisely while collecting more efficiently. We are now able to funnel those dollars into the overall sustainability of the service, including the lifecycle of critical infrastructure and equipment, such as vehicles and heart monitors, and also to the staff pay scales. These initiatives, along with becoming a part of the University of Kentucky's Rural Medical Direction Program and being on the path of having our Training and Education Institute Certification this year, Owen County EMS is also on the path to be held at the forefront of services in the state.
Lastly, I want to talk about community programs. I feel these programs could be the heart of our community and of my administration. We will continue working collectively with the cities of Owenton, Gratz and Monterey to establish sustainable public service programs. These initiatives will promote Owen County as not just a viable alternative to the metropolitan areas that surround us; but, as a community of strong family values, rich heritage and diverse opportunities for healthier living.
The National Park Service Grant, in partnership with Bluegrass Tomorrow, Franklin, Woodford and Scott counties, Owen County has been identified as a critical component for the regional and national Bluegrass Bike Hike Horseback Water Trail Alliance program. In conjunction with that program, we have applied for a grant opportunity through the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, which will provide us help in identifying and establishing recognized trails to be included in that program.
Another initiative is the Preserve America Program. Initial programmatic planning and engagement identified Operation Honor; a non-profit agency supporting veteran's social reengagement efforts, along with the City of Owenton and Owen County will establish the Veteran's Honor Trail. This tourist trail will exhibit banners that will be flown from the utility poles in downtown Owenton and will formulate a self-guided walking tour through the history of Owen County and encompass all of our veterans, along with current military personnel and local first responders. It will highlight their unique experiences in serving our nation and our community.
We are continually moving forward with the revitalization of the courthouse grounds. This will help spur The City of Owenton's revitalizations programs and the Main Street Designation, Preserve America Designation and many other revitalizations efforts. Currently our community program administrator is working on securing a grant to repair the entire wall surrounding the court house property to its original condition and look. We hope to have this project underway by late fall or early spring 2017. Other minor improvements, such as roof repair, installation of a bird repellant system and an overall energy efficiency program will further secure these efforts.
As with the courthouse, the fairgrounds will have several uplifting projects such as new plank fencing running along Ellis Road with some new fencing being established inside the park. In addition, benches, trash cans and dog waste stations will be located at the trail head of the park. Late fiscal year projects and grant funded projects could include new fencing around ball parks, resurfacing of tennis and basketball courts, establishment of an amphitheater with stage for events such as family movie nights, music from various local artists and other musical acts, new restrooms, emergency notification stations and lighting along the walking trail and new ball field lights and signage.
We are also blessed with many new and exciting programs such as the Gratz River Fest, Judge's Night Out, Community Market and Farm to Table initiatives along with several bike and river programs, which will only act to complement the already established programs in Owen County and further generate community engagement.
Finally, in conjunction with the library, my staff will initiate a community planning meeting late this year or early next year. This will allow all organizational leaders from the community to come together and schedule and promote their events. By doing this we will not only increase the information provided by the library's bi-monthly community calendar but also allow all organizations to work together and limit the duplicate events on specific dates.
In closing, I come before you with the past 18 months of change – change that was inevitable but controllable. Some changes were easy while others were hard, some even controversial and unpopular. But I can promise you those changes were not made based on a gut instinct or personal opinion or agenda; but, rather on the mission based agenda that I set forth 18 months ago focused on data and the analysis of that data. We are doing more with less and we are investing wisely to expand our county's opportunities while maintaining and improving the services the taxpayers have come to expect, demand and deserve. We are still on our way to financial solvency and we are in a much better position than we were a year ago. The numbers prove it! There are many wonderful and exciting things happening in Owen County that are changing our county for the better – better for our citizens, better for our future and better for our children's future. Owen County will continue to be a great place to live and work and play where community truly does matter and hopefully our future will be predictable as we create it together.
I challenge every citizen to remember the word “together”, and when I say together I mean it folks, TOGETHER! It's time that we come together as a community. Whether you like or dislike me ... whether you like or dislike your neighbor’s political views or your friend’s political views, it's time to get together. The people in northern Kentucky are running out of room and the people in the south are too far removed from the north - the opportunity is upon us. It's time we come together for what's right for this community, not what's right for your personal opinion or agenda. I challenge each and every one of you to do this together with me as we move Owen County into the future.
Robert "Casey" Ellis,
Owen County Judge Executive
Vol. 3 May 25, 2016
As we look forward to nicer weather, schools being out for summer break and summer activities, I wanted to inform the citizens of Owen County about the road closure scheduled for June 1 – June 30th. There seems to be some confusion around this subject. The reality is ONE CITY BLOCK will be CLOSED. That block is from East Adair traffic light to Seminary Street red light (and just to the edge of People’s Bank drive thru). Repairs to the pavement in the area of Cowboy’s, the Barber Shop and Bird Dog Cafe are required due to drainage issues. This has long been a problem for the citizens of Owen County and these businesses along that stretch of road. The funding was available to fix it and we are looking forward to the improvements.
There isn’t enough room for the workers to safely repair the road and traffic to flow safe and sound through the area; thus, the closure is necessary. Again, this only impacts ONE CITY BLOCK. Therefore, if you are traveling from Sparta and wish to go through the city of Owenton, it is necessary to follow the detour signs by taking Roland Avenue in front of the hospital down to the end of the street. Turn left on Seminary Street and then make a right on Madison Street (just past Touch of Polish). You will then make a left on East Adair and a right back on to Main Street. In other words, if you need to go to Southern States, Hometown, MasterFit, or any of the churches along the North side of Main Street you do not have to go through the detour. You can still proceed to those establishments. However, you cannot go past First Farmer’s Bank.
If you are coming from Dry Ridge or Frankfort and wish to travel through the city of Owenton, you will need to follow the detour signs heading north. This will force you to turn right on East Adair which is the first red light past the Dollar General Store and the Family Dollar Store. You will follow East Adair to Ellis Road (KY 3095). Take a left on Ellis Road and follow it to the end. A temporary red light will be set up there to accommodate the flow of traffic. At this light, in front of Itron, you will turn right onto 127 and proceed out of town going toward Cull Family Pharmacy, the Post Office and Meadowview. If you are wanting to go to Southern States, Hometown, Masterfit, Smoker Friendly or the churches, you will simply turn left at the light by Itron and drive along Main Street to reach your destination. When you leave these businesses please follow the south bound detour along Roland Avenue as described above.
I hope this alleviates any concerns or misconceptions concerning the road closure, again it’s only one city block – from Seminary to East Adair. I appreciate your cooperation during this inconvenience as we work together to make Owen County roads a safer place to travel.
Robert "Casey" Ellis,
Owen County Judge Executive
Vol. 2 - January 15, 2016
Community Matters – an update from your County Judge Executive will be an article published on our county website – www.owencountyky.us The purpose of the quarterly article is to keep the citizens of Owen County informed on issues that matter to our community.
For this first quarterly article of 2016, I wish to update you on the current situation with our local hospital, clinic, EMS service and the availability of quality health care here in Owen County. I realize the uncertainty of this situation has been very stressful and inconvenient to the residents of the county over the past months. Many Owen County citizens don’t realize that the hospital and the clinic are just like any other business in the county. While they have a mission, they still must operate like a business. Therefore, they are not under the control of the County Government or Fiscal Court. While this has been very frustrating, I must applaud Saint Elizabeth and HealthPoint for their continued communication and updates on the ever-changing progress of the situation and I can assure you I have done everything within my power to assist them in their quest to provide access to quality healthcare in our county.
At this point, I can share with you that St Elizabeth and HealthPoint have been very direct in their intentions, but you must realize that things remain very fluid and can change until final approval is granted by the bankruptcy courts. In a recent meeting with St. Elizabeth Healthcare officials, they informed me that all parties (St. Elizabeth, the USDA, and New Horizons) have agreed to the lease of the hospital facility to St. Elizabeth. We hope that this will be approved by the Bankruptcy Court on January 21st, pending a USDA official in Washington signing off on the agreement. We have no reason to believe that the bankruptcy judge wouldn’t approve this agreement since all parties have agreed to the conditions.
After the approval, St. Elizabeth plans to step in February 1st and immediately start upgrading the service provided as well as begin to evaluate the needs of the community. They will formulate a long term plan to provide the much needed service to the residents of Owen County. They plan to evaluate the current equipment and conditions and make necessary improvements with the latest, most advanced technology and diagnostic equipment. This will be an ongoing process.
Representatives from HealthPoint have also been very engaged during this process and have shown their commitment to provide healthcare to our community. HealthPoint will be transferring the local doctors back to the clinic and will be a vital partner with St. Elizabeth. Both entities are very committed to the needs of the county and to providing the best possible healthcare to our citizens.
With regards of the Owen County EMS Service, we have undergone many upgrades with education, technology and diagnostic equipment in the past year. Some of the changes include a new medical compliance program, electronic patient records software and medical billing company, which have allowed us to increase our collections by nearly twenty percent. We have also recently upgraded our Heart Monitors with the latest technology which will provide the responders with the most advanced equipment possible. This was a large initial investment made by the Fiscal Court but by looking at the long term investment and the replacement of antiquated equipment we will save the taxpayers of Owen County an estimated $120,000.00 over a 6 year period. Moving forward, discussions will continue with St. Elizabeth representatives in regards to emergency service in Owen County. St. Elizabeth has agreed to work with our ambulance administration to help us provide more education and a collaborative effort to transition patients between facilities and necessary services.
Robert "Casey" Ellis,
Owen County Judge Executive